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Red Foot Tortoise Geochelone carbonaria

This red foot tortoise is a medium-sized South American tortoise. It is known to be hardy. The red-foot tortoise looks very similar to the closely related yellow-foot tortoise, the primary distinction is the yellow scales on the forelegs of the yellow-foot and red scales on the forelegs of the red-foot tortoise

The red-footed tortoise is found throughout southern Central America, and central and northern South America. The red-foot tortoise is also found on several Caribbean islands.

They have black shells that contrasts with the yellow scute areola, red legs and yellow or red markings on their head. Being from multiple habitats, they are a hardy species. As long as their requirements are met,  the red-foot tortoise can be expected to live a lifetime - up to and exceeding 50 years.You need to have the space to maintain a redfoot tortoise. If you can meet the "basics", they are an easy pet to keep.

Average Size - An adult red-foot tortoise can range in size from 10 to 18 inches, more commonly they will grow to 12 to 13 inches.

Life Span - Up to 50 years with some animals living longer

Diet - The red-foot tortoise is primarily herbivorous, consuming a wide variety of grasses, fruits, flowers, and small plants. They do eat meat - in the wild primarily carrion. 

Feeding - Feed your redfoot tortoise a mixture of high calcium greens, fruits, vegetables, and flowers and a small amount of animal protein. Good greens include  collard, mustard, dandelion, endive, watercress, romaine, kale, and escarole. Spinach should not be over fed because it contains oxalates that bind dietary calcium, making it unavailable. Good fruits and vegetables to offer are pumpkin, winter squash, grated carrots, crook-neck squash, zucchini, papaya, mango, kiwi, melon, cantaloupe, frozen mixed vegetables (thawed), and prickly pear fruits. High quality canned dog food and pinky mice should be offered every other feeding. Also sprinkle the food every seven to ten days with Reptical Calcium supplement.

Housing - The most common form of enclosure for a red-foot tortoise is an open box type cage. This looks like a bookshelf unit flipped onto its back. The bottom should be waterproof - this will protect any flooring under the enclosure. The required space requirements per tortoise is three square yards (that is 6 feet by 4 1/2 feet)

Substrate - The substrate of the enclosure can be a mixture of peat moss and playground sand. Cypress mulch is also very good because it's humidity retention is good since redfoot tortoises thrive in humidity. A feeding area should be provided and should be free from sand. Over time, sand can build up inside the tortoise and lead to blockages.

Habitat - The enclosure should have several areas for your redfoot tortoise. A hide area should be provided (a large half piece of tree bark that they can hide under but never become stuck in will work fine). A feeding area that is clean of sand and dirt should be provided. Grassy areas also work well. With this said, keep in mind that you must clean the enclosure and the more you "create" the harder it will be to clean. The humidity level should be around 60%.

Temperature - The enclosure should have both a cool area and a warm area. The cool end of the enclosure could range from  70-75 degrees F and the heated end should be 85-88 degrees F. The nighttime temperature can drop to 55-60 degrees F but should have some a heating source at 80 degrees F.

Lighting - In addition to a basking light, a full spectrum reptile UVA/UVB light should be provided. Exposure to UVA/UVB is necessary for proper calcium metabolism, and also appears to have other benefits to overall health such as improving appetite. It is also nice to take your tortoise out into natural sunlight in warmer weather. A daytime to night schedule of 14 hours day to 10 hours night will work fine.

 Water -  A large shallow water pan should be provided and cleaned daily. The water should be no deeper than 1/2 the body height of the tortoise. They DO NOT swim.

Normal Behavior and Interaction - Red foot tortoises can be kept in groups - obviously enclosure size will need to be adjusted to handle multiple animals. Additionally, there will need to be enough space for tortoises to get some "alone" time.

Males are slightly larger than females. The lateral and ventral concavities are most strongly developed in males. Males may fight - especially if a female is present. As with other tortoise species, male red-foot tortoises have a concave plastron.

Recommended Supplies:

  • Habitat with appropriate construction to keep tortoise in enclosure
  • Thermometer light timer
  • Water dish
  • Book about redfoot tortoises or tortoises
  • Substrate
  • Driftwood and/or hollow tree bark 
  • Incandescent light or ceramic heater even undertank heaters
  • UVB lighting 
  • Hide box

Habitat Maintenance Change water daily. Thoroughly clean the enclosure at least once week: set redfoot tortoise aside in a secure habitat; scrub the cage area and furnishings with a 3% bleach solution; rinse thoroughly with water, removing all smell of bleach; dry the enclosure and furnishings; and add clean substrate.

Grooming and Hygiene When cleaning housing, check tortoise for any abrasions, signs of parasites or for fungal infections. Always wash your hands before and after touching your newt or habitat contents to help prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases
Signs of a Healthy Pet: 

  • Clear eyes
  • Clear nose and mouth
  • Active and alert
  • Eats regularly
  • Healthy skin and hard shell
Common Health Issues and Red Flags:

  • Vomiting
  • Discharge in nose or mouth
  • Lethargy 
  • Abnormal feces
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cloudy eyes  

If you notice any of these signs, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian.

As with all pets in this category, it is important that you find a veterinarian that practices in EXOTICS – this is critical. The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area.

Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet. 

Page Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 21:28 EST
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