Yellow-foot Tortoise

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Species group:

Other common names: Forest Tortoise: South American Yellow-footed tortoise

Scientific name: Geochelone denticulata

The basics:
The Yellow-foot Tortoise is strictly a rainforest species, rarely if ever venturing out of its well covered habitat. They are found in central regions of South America.

Appearance / health:
The large Yellow-foot Tortoise gains its name from the yellow or yellow-orange scales on its legs and feet. They also have these noticeable scales on their face. Their shell is slightly domed and oval shaped. Each scute on the carapace has a bright yellow center outlined by darker coloring. It is easy to misidentify a Yellow-foot as a Red-foot Tortoise and vice versa. One identifying feature that separates the two is the scale patterns on top of the head. These scales in the Yellow-foot Tortoise are more elongated and the first scale (the prefrontal scale) at the tip above the beak long and split. The Yellow-foots also do not have a ‘waist’ when viewed from above as the Red-foots do.


AVERAGE ADULT SIZE: 15 – 27 inches

Behavior / temperament:
These are highly active tortoises that take time to warm up to their humans. Once they do they are quite friendly. They have been known to train their people to drop treats on cue by nipping ankles.

The ideal enclosure size for one adult Yellow-foot Tortoise is 32 square feet. They can be housed indoors or outdoors. Depending on your climate it may be best to provide both an indoor and outdoor habitat to accommodate their temperature and humidity needs year round. Providing sometime outdoors allows them to be exposed to natural sunlight and gives them opportunities for natural foraging. Outdoor habitats should be well planted with shady bushes and trees that provide almost 100% shade. They may need misters in the drier climates. Mulch, moss, or bark can be used as a substrate, both indoors and out, to help maintain a higher humidity level. Mulch not only increases the humidity it provides natural bugs and snails for them to forage on. These tortoises like to hide; they will need lots of sheltered areas to feel comfortable. They need access to a shallow pool for drinking and soaking, this will need to be cleaned at least once a day.

LIFESPAN: up to 50 years

TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY: They need very high humidity levels and temperatures in the range of 65-95° F.

HIBERNATION / ESTIVATION: The Yellow-foot Tortoise does not hibernate.

HEALTH CONCERNS: Most health problems are the result of a poor diet; overfeeding and improper nutrients causes pyramiding and too little protein will cause muscle and neurological problems leading to paralysis. They can easily become dehydrated from not enough high water content foods or access to water for drinking and soaking and too low of humidity. If conditions are too cold they will get respiratory infections. Wild caught individuals are almost always in very poor health and do not survive long in captivity. They are also prone to obesity as they will happily overeat. Your reptile veterinarian will help you better understand your tortoise’s health needs.

The Yellow-foot Tortoise is unique in its naturally varied diet. They are natural omnivores eating large amounts of fallen, well ripened fruit, flowers, plants leaves, and dead animals. They will also feast on snails, bugs, mushrooms, feces, and bark. Extensive studies done on wild populations show that their diet changes throughout the year. Likewise, as a pet, they should be fed a diet that is highly varied. Their diet should consist of lots of fruits such as mangoes, papaya, grapes, and berries, as well as grasses, flowers (roses, hibiscus) dark leafy greens, and the occasional egg, pinkie mouse, or Mazuri Tortoise diet. They should get calcium carbonate supplements once a week starting after the age of 6 months.

The rainy season starts the breeding process. The male lovingly circles his chosen female and does a head dance for her. Then to solidify the relationship he will ram, bite, and push her before breeding. Eggs are laid in a nest that is often left partially uncovered.


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