Red-footed Tortoise

ZOO LOCATION: The Loft


Lifespan: 50+ years

Wild Diet: Primarily herbivorous; grasses, fruits, flowers, and small plants; Occasionally carrion

Zoo Diet: Soaked dog food, mixed green salad daily, fruit and vegetables, vitamins.

Predators: Young are "bit size" and shell offers little protection from predators Adults difficult to eat.

SSP: No

IUCN Status: Not Evaluated


Habitat/Range: Commonly found in relatively dry grassland of Tropical South America, from the Amazon basin northward.

Characteristics: Adult male at 13 1/4 in. is somewhat large than the female at 11 1/4 in. Males have longer, thicker tail. Males have concave plastron. Legs and head often colored with patches or red, orange or yellow. Many have a distinctive constriction in the sides of their shells, giving the appearance of a waistline or an hourglass shape when viewed from above. Undergoes an ontogenetic color change - juveniles have a carapace with a pale yellow or horn ground color, with increasing dark brown or black patches as the animal matures; adults have a carapace with a dark brown or blackish brown ground color with pale yellow aureole in the center of each lateral and center scute.

Behavior: Can tolerate long periods of time without food and water. Outgoing and curious. Tortoises are almost half bone and shell, so they have a great need for calcium in their diet. In species where the males fight for breeding rights, the male is usually larger than the female. In many turtle species where fighting does not occur, the males are smaller, thus faster and able to breed more females.

Reproduction: Breeding is synchronized with the onset of the rainy season. Males identify each other eliciting a characteristic head movement, a series of jerks away from and back to mid-position. During courtship the male makes clucking sounds that sound very much like a chicken. There is a set pattern in pitches of the clucking sounds. Rival males will battle, attempting to overturn each other, however neither the males or females will defend a territory. They are considered nomadic in their movements. The female will lay a clutch of 5 to 15 eggs from July to September in excavations or deposited in leaf litter. The eggs have brittle shells and incubation is generally from 105 to 202 days (mean 150), depending on the temperature

Conservation: Hunted extensively for food. They are often collected in large numbers and shipped to many different South American cities to be sold as a delicacy. Not currently evaluated by the IUCN.


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