Red-Footed Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria)
“Red-foots” are a medium-sized, hardy tortoise with energy and personality. The red-footed tortoise is native to a wide variety of habitats ranging from humid tropical forests to the dry savannah or semi-arid land of Central and South America. Generally, the species prefers a humid environment.
Red-footed tortoises make excellent pets. Hatchlings in the pet trade are usually captive-bred in the United States, whereas adults may be wild-caught imports.
Chelonoidis carbonaria: red-footed tortoise
Chelonoidis denticulata : yellow-footed tortoise
Color and Size
Adults have a high domed carapace, yellow-orange to red facial markings, and yellow-red to orange-red scales on the forelimbs. Each keratin shield or “scute” on the upper shell or carapace has a yellow center. Adult size varies and may range from 12-20 in (30-50 cm).
Red-footed tortoises are generally herbivores but will eat carrion and slow-moving invertebrates such as slugs and snails:
- The bulk of the diet should consist of dark leafy greens and broad-leaf graze.
- Also offer a variety of chopped vegetables, hay, some berries, and other fruits. Red-foots relish tropical fruits such as banana, mango, and papaya.
- Offer a small amount of animal protein (i.e. low-fat dry dog food or earthworms) every 1-2 weeks.
Dust the non-breeding adult’s diet of salad greens with a calcium carbonate or calcium gluconate supplement once weekly. Calcium supplements should be devoid or low in phosphorus with a minimum Ca:P ratio of 2:1. Also offer high-calcium graze and forages such as clover and dandelions. Both are enjoyed by red-foots and require no dusting. A general vitamin/mineral supplement can also be offered once weekly.
|Temperature||Provide a temperature gradient of 78-85°F (26-29°C) and a basking spot that reaches 90°F (32°C). Drop the temperature to the high 60s to low 70s F at night (20-22°C).|
|Humidity/water||Provide lots of water for drinking and soaking as well as a “hut” or warren where relative humidity is elevated.|
|Cage size and design||These tortoises are extremely active. Provide a pair of adults with at least 4 x 8 ft (1 x 2 m) of floor space. Outdoor housing is preferable when temperature allows.|
|Cage furniture/supplies||Provide a full-spectrum light source for normal absorption of dietary calcium.|
|Social structure||Red-footed tortoises are social, although breeding males can become aggressive.|
25-35 years (>50+ years is possible)
|Dermatologic:||Chelonians possess a tough, horny beak instead of teeth.The shell consists of bony plates covered with keratinized shields called “scutes”. The upper shell is called the “carapace” and the bottom shell is the “plastron”.|
|Respiratory:||There is a relatively short trachea with complete tracheal rings. The lungs are large and sac-like with many septa, lie against carapace.|
|Urogenital:||Turtles have a thin-walled, very distensible, bilobed bladder.A single, large, smooth phallus sits on the floor of the cloaca.Male red-foots have a concave plastron and longer tail. The plastron of females is flat, and the tail is relatively short.|
Tortoises are easily held by the shell or carapace, although a complete physical examination including extension of the head and neck, often requires sedation.
Due to the risk of salmonellosis, always wash your hands after handling a reptile.
Dorsal coccygeal venous sinus
Jugular vein (The right vessel tends to be larger)
Brachial artery/distal humeral plexus
Regular physical examination
Do not use ivermectin in chelonians.
Important medical conditions
Red-footed tortoises are relatively hardy. Problems seen in captivity can include:
- Hepatic lipidosis
- Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism or “metabolic bone disease”
- ObesityIf obesity is a problem in a sedentary adult red-foot, the patient may be fasted one or two
times weekly, however, red-foot tortoises are active pets. A better solution is to increase habitat size in order to increase exercise and calorie utilization. One or two red-foots will enjoy and utilize a half-acre field or, at minimum, a 12 x 12 room.
- Penile prolapse
- Respiratory infection
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