South American Yellow Footed Tortoise

Care sheet for Geochelone denticulate
(South American Yellow Footed Tortoise)
Compiled by…
Cat and Exotic Care of the Central Coast
Maxwell Conn, DVM
565 Five Cities Drive
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Ph: 805-773-OCAT (773-0228)
Fax: 805-773-0229
Full Service Hospital & boarding for Cats, Birds, Reptiles & Small Mammals
Physical Characteristics
The shell is thick and heavy. The scales are dark brown with patches of
yellow. The limbs and head are brown with some orange scales and
The Yellow Footed Tortoises limbs, head, and tail come in colors such as brown with
orange markings and bright yellow. The skin or scales are black or brown with yellow
markings or patches of yellow. Female tortoises tend to grow larger than their male
counterparts, and the male tortoises tend to have a concave belly.
Size of average adult
males = 16 inches, females = 24 - 30 inches
Wild: grasses, succulent plants, fallen fruit and carrion
Terrestrial (completely adapted for life on land)
Live hidden in the thick forest undergrowth, avoid clearings and wide
Males identify each other by making a swift sideways movement with the
head (not made by females)
breeding season: all year
clutch size: usually 4 - 8 white, elongated eggs with brittle shells
the female digs a hole and buries the eggs, sometimes laying two
clutches per year, the hatchlings dig out and are self sufficient
Habitat: dense rainforest and tropical lowlands
Distribution: South America
Northern South America, east of the Andes south to southern Brazil;
Trinidad, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, etc.
In its range, the biggest threat to the survival of yellow-footed tortoises is over-hunting
by man. Yellow-foots are collected in large numbers and shipped to many different South
American cities to be sold as a delicacy. Another threat is the ever-present habitat loss
and disturbance.
Exportation for the pet trade also has a negative effect on yellow-footed tortoises,
although a smaller threat than either hunting or habitat loss The yellow-footed tortoise is
not currently endangered, however if over-hunting and habitat loss continue, it will most
likely make the list soon. Conservation efforts include the establishment and protection of
wildlife reserves and national parks, where yellow-footed tortoises and other animals are
protected from hunting.
These turtles make a sound like a baby cooing
with a raspy voice. Tortoises also identify each
other using body language. Male tortoises also
swing their heads back and forth in a continuous
rhythm as a mating ritual. Mating occurs all year
round. There is no parental care of the young and
the baby tortoises will fend for themselves,
starting by eating calcium rich vegetables.
This South American tortoise eats many kinds of
foliage. They are too slow to capture any fast
animals. In the wild, their diet consist of grasses,
fallen fruit, carion, plants, bones, mushrooms,
excrement, and slow moving animals such as
snails, worms, and others they are able to capture.
In captivity, they are fed oranges, apples,
bananas, hard-boiled eggs, kale, endive, collard
greens, spinach, carrots, and alfalfa pellets. Each
Yellow Footed Tortoise in the wild reaches the
age of maturity at about 8-10 years. The
fecundity of a female generally depends on the size, the bigger they are, the more eggs
they can produce. On average, a female will create approximately 6-16 eggs per year,
although some female individuals may not reproduce each year. The eggs have brittle
shells and are elongated to spherical, approximately 3-6 cm in diameter. The egg size will
increase with the body size of the turtle. The young are self-sufficient from birth. The
Yellow Footed Tortoise can live for approximately 50-60 years. Geochelone denticulata
is an endangered species. The major populations are located in South America, and they
are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, also
known as CITES (Appendix II).
Wild Population:
Cage should be large enough, but does not need to be high. (e.g.
Wooden Terrarium, Glass Terrarium)
Moss (e.g. Forest Bed , Forest Moss), Newspaper
activity period
Daytime (diurnal);
12 - 14 hours each day with direct natural sunlight (preferred) or UV
28 - 30 degrees C -- basking spot (e.g. Basking Spot Lamp)
26 - 27 C -- cooler area (e.g. Daylight Blue Bulb)
24 - 25 C -- at night (e.g. Nightlight Red Bulb, Infrared Heat Lamp,
Ceramic Heat Emitter)
water dish
hiding place
mid to high
a large shallow water dish (e.g. Rock water dish) should be available for
soaking and drinking all the time.
Preferred. Possibilities include caves (e.g. Habba Hut, Heat Cave), etc
wild diet
Herbivorous (plant-eating);
Fallen Fruits (specially Plums), Mushrooms, vines, succulents, Grasses,
Greens, Flowers, occasionally carrions
primary food
Various fruits (e.g. Plums, Peaches, Strawberries, Apples with skin,
Kiwi, Starfruits, Papayas, Mangos, Tomatoes, etc), Carrots,
Mushrooms, Beans, Peas, Grass, Veggies, Flowers, Dark Leafy Greens
(e.g. dandelions, mustards, collards, turnips, kales), Box Turtle &
Tortoise Food , Tortoise Formula
Canned Dog or Cat Food, Cooked Eggs, White Cheese, Low-Fat Meat
Its diet consists of the greatest diversity of all tortoises.
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