The red-footed tortoise, also known as red-leg, red-foot, red-legged, and savannah tortoise, is a mid-sized reptile found in Central and South America.
Red-footed Tortoise Scientific Classification
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Size: Red-footed tortoises have an average length of 12-14 in (30-35 cm); individuals measuring up to 18 in (45 cm) are commonly found while there have been occasional discoveries of 20 in (50 cm) specimens. Males are larger than females.
Weight: Average weight of these reptiles is around 11 lbs (5 kg).
Color: They have a dark-brown to blackish-brown carapace with structures on them known as scutes. Each scute has a pale color near the center called areolae while the outer portions of the scutes are golden-brown with the edges being dark-brown. The plastron, which is the lower shell, tends to range from a pale to a dark-yellow. The scales on the tail and limbs range from yellow to a reddish-orange while those on the upper surface of the head are brightly colored with dark margins.
They live in the countries of Panama, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, French Guyana, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, or Paraguay.
Red-footed tortoises inhabit temperate forests, rainforests, savannahs and dry forests.
- They are diurnal and stay active during the daytime.
- They are mostly sedentary and do not move long distances.
- They are usually not social but do tolerate the presence of other tortoises in their territory, feeding sites, and group feeding sessions.
- Red-footed tortoises take shelters in burrows of armadillos, hollow logs, fallen trees and areas densely vegetated areas for thermoregulation.
They have an omnivorous feeding habit. It eats fruits during the wet season and shifts its diet to flowers during the dry season. They also consume fungi, soil, foliage, pebbles, sand, and carrion.
Mating & Reproduction
They mate around the wet season from the months of June to September. Males start making sounds to drive off competition and attract mates. The sounds made during this period resemble the sounds of chickens. Males engage in head-bobbing to intimidate their opponents before starting to wrestle to win over mates, and competitions are won when one individual flips the other onto their back. Females make several nesting sites and lays between 2 and 15 eggs in each location. These eggs are incubated for 117-158 days.
The offspring are born with a weight of 0.78-1.06 oz (22-30 g) and a carapace length of 39-45 cm (1.5-1.8 in). They eventually become sexually mature by the time reach a carapace length of 20-25 cm (7.9-9.8 in), which they attain when they are around 5 years old.
They live for around 50-60 years in the wild.
Sounds & Communication
As mentioned earlier, their mating calls are similar to chicken calls. Juveniles sometimes make chirps during foraging.
- The shell keeps them safe from most predators.
- They have powerful jaws, but lack teeth.
- The sand that the red-footed tortoise ingests is believed to aid in their digestion.
- Their metabolism slows down significantly during the winter, allowing them to survive on very little food.
Juveniles, hatchlings, and eggs are fall prey to many predators. Adults are usually protected by their shell but are preyed upon by jaguars, whose jaws have enough strength to break the shell open.
IUCN Conservation Status
The IUCN currently lists the red-footed tortoise under the ‘Vulnerable’ category.
- Red-footed tortoises are popular as pets and are kept as such despite their vulnerable status.
- They play a major role in the ecosystem being active dispersers of seeds of the fruits they eat.
- They are killed by humans for their meat in most of their range.