One of the most overlooked behaviors is a sulcata's need to walk. In its natural environment a sulcata can walk more than five miles in a day and has a territory of about five miles to ten miles (depending on the source material). When in their natural environment, a sulcata may need to walk great distances to get to fresh grazing areas and to find water sources. In the wild, sulcata have multiple tunnels within their territory.
Rarely does this behavior information translate into recommended husbandry. Very few sources emphasize the need for the sulcata to have ample space to walk around. Authors do note that big sulcata need big areas, they observe that sulcata pace, and they note that a sulcata will try to get through fences but few authors get the reason why. Many owners are deluded to believe a sulcata can do with less space.
Off hand I cannot think of another animal that needs to walk as much as sulcata tortoises do. Many animals need space like horses and cows, and many require exercise like dogs. But the sulcata as a built in instinct to walk.
Can I really state with certainly that a sulcata really needs to walk, and to walk great distances? Besides conclusions drawn from evidence of natural behavior, I observe Frankie's all obsession to walk. When I take him out to walk, Frankie is on a mission. Frankie doesn't seem to need to "get somewhere" but rather he just needs to walk. He easily walks one mile with me and if I had the patience (it takes a good hour and fifteen minutes to walk a mile) he would go a second mile and maybe more. During walks, Frankie is not distracted by much. Oh, Frankie will stop for a dandelion, but he is quickly on his way. [:D] He’ll stop for hardly anything else, including admiring children and adults standing in the way. [:D]
With this in mind, I believe that a sulcata could be spiritually broken in captivity if they are not allow to walk and are kept in small spaces. The worse cases are those sulcata kept permanently in basements or tubs: their muscles nearly atrophy.
I have also seen rescued sulcata stare amazingly at the great outdoors when brought outside for the first time in their life: their first desire is to walk even if it cannot.
Three things the sulcata love to do: bask, graze and walk. Sulcata are not the kind of tortoises that should be kept permanently in basements. They should not be kept in small yards. They should have plenty of space to walk.
If you love your sulcata, take him on a walk. You will be amazed.