Animal Facts

Red Footed Tortoise

Introduction

Red-footed tortoises are a medium sized tortoise that lives in South America. They live in forest and grassland areas. They have dark colored shells with bright colored spots on their back. Male tortoises are more brightly colored than female tortoises.

Red-footed tortoises spend most of the day resting to help keep cool and avoid enemies. They can eat a wide variety of foods mostly made up of plants. They are considered social tortoises and can be found sharing food sources and shelter with other tortoises.

There is very little information on the status of red-footed tortoises in the wild. They play an important role of spreading seeds of the fruit they eat. They breed easily in captivity and are often kept as pets.

Characteristics

Red-footed tortoises are considered social tortoises. They do not aggressively defend territories. In fact, they are often found sharing food sources and shelters. They have poor eyesight and will leave scent trails so that other tortoises can find the shelters.

Red-footed tortoises in the northern part of their range can be active for almost the entire day, but in the southern part of their range, they will spend half of the day or more resting in shelters. They do this to keep cool because it is hotter in this part of their range.

Appearance

Red-footed tortoises have a dark brown to black shell with bright, light brown to bright yellow spots on their back. These spots are in the middle of the scales on the back of their shells and are in alignment going across their backs. The underneath of their shell is dull yellow to light brown in color. Their head, neck, and legs are dark brown in color and their face has red markings on their checks and chins. Their legs also have red marking going all the way down to their feet. This is how they get their name.

Male red-footed tortoises are larger and more brightly colored than female tortoises. Male tortoises also have long muscular tails and female tortoises’ tails are short. Male tortoises are also thinner in width at the back of their shells than female tortoises.

Life Stages

Red-footed tortoises have three life stages. The first life stage is the egg. This life stage begins after male and female tortoises mate. This occurs throughout the year, but nesting season is only from June to September. Female tortoises lay two to 15 eggs in nest that are dug around eight inches deep. The eggs hatch in 117 to 158 days and then the juvenile stage begins. The parents do not help raise the juveniles and after they dig themselves from the nest they are on their own. They remain in the juvenile stage for five years before they reach the adult stage. The adult stage is the final stage.

Life Span

There is no information on the life span of red-footed tortoises in the wild. In captivity they have been reported to live up to 30 years.

Size

Red-footed tortoises are medium sized tortoises. On average adult tortoises can reach 12 inches in length and in some areas tortoises 18 inches long are common. The largest known tortoise was 24 inches long and weighed 62 pounds. The eggs of these tortoises are two inches long and 1 ½ inches wide. When the juvenile tortoises hatch, they are 1 ½ to two inches long and weigh less than one tenth of a pound.

Habitat

Red-footed tortoises live in a wide range of habitats. They can be found in grasslands and forest from Panama to Venezuela. They prefer very humid and heavily forested areas. They avoid areas that are very muddy and where it is hard for them to dig burrows. They prefer to live in areas where there is very little temperature fluctuation throughout the year and prefer temperatures from 95°F to 68°F.

Red-footed tortoises can also be found on several Caribbean Islands. It is believed the tortoises were brought to these islands by people. However, several of the islands have had populations of tortoises since before European settlers arrived and it is unknown if they naturally occurred in these locations.

Diet

Red-footed tortoises feed on a wide range of foods. Their diet is largely dependent on the season. During the wet season, they will feed mainly on fruits. They really like to eat fruits of cacti and fig trees. During the dry season, they will feed on flowers, grasses, insects, and fungi. Although they are mainly herbivorous feeding mainly on plants, they can also be omnivorous and feed on small animals like snakes and rodents. In some cases, they will even eat the poop of other animals.

Friends and Enemies

Red-footed tortoises have several friends. Their most important friends are other red-footed tortoises. They will share food sources and hiding places with other tortoises. They leave scent trails and make clucking noises to help other tortoises find food and shelter. They are also friends with many of the fruit trees they eat and will help spread the seeds of these trees after they eat the fruit.

Red-footed tortoises have many enemies. Juvenile tortoises are especially at risk right they hatch. Their small size makes them ideal for lizards, rats, and mongooses to attack. These animals will also dig up nests and feed on the eggs. Even when juvenile tortoises grow larger they still have enemies. Large lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and birds will attack larger juvenile tortoises. Even adult red-footed tortoises have enemies. People and jaguars are the primary enemies of adult tortoises and they will attack and eat tortoises.

Suitability as Pets

Red-footed tortoises are often kept as pets. They are one of the most common species of tortoise kept as pets across the world. They can be kept in enclosures will walls around 16 inches high. In warm humid locations, they can be kept outside. They need to be kept in very humid and warm areas and when temperatures become very cold they need to be moved indoors or have a heating source supplied.

Red-footed tortoises are easy to feed and will eat almost any fruit or vegetable. They always need access to a water source. This can be a small pond or small pool filled with freshwater. Owners of these tortoises also need to be careful when handling them. If they are handled too much, they can become stressed. This can have a bad impact on the health and life span of the tortoise.

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