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Sea Life, Animals
& Exhibits

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Red & Yellow Footed Tortoise

(Chelonoidis carbonaria)
(Geochelone denticulate for Yellow Footed Tortoise)

These Tortoises look quite similar to one another. The only difference is just the color of the scales on the forelegs and their heads.


Found in South American countries live in dry forest areas, grasslands and the savanna. They also live in areas of rain forest that are close to open habitats. Red-footed tortoises share some of their range with yellow-footed tortoises; their ranges overlap in where they both inhabit forests and grasslands.


Red and yellow-footed tortoises are primarily herbivorous but also eat small amounts of animal matter. They also eat fungi, live and dead plants or fruits, flowers, soil, sand, and slow moving animals such as snails, worms and insects that they can capture.


Breeding occurs with the beginning of the rainy season. Males identify each other through a characteristic head movement that is a series of jerks away from and back to a middle position. If another tortoise is a male, he will make the same head movements. Males will battle each other, attempting to turn over one another.

However, there is not set territory to defend, they battle merely for the opportunity to mate with females. If the soliciting male receives a response of no head movement, this indicates that the other tortoise is a female. Scientific experiments and observation have shown that for mating to continue, both male and female must have “correct” coloration on the respective mate’s head. Then, the male sniffs the cloacal region of the female. Copulation usually follows the sniffing, but the male repeatedly circles the female and bites the legs of the female before mating.

The female excavates a nest in leaf litter and lays a clutch of five to 15 eggs from July to September. During the nesting season, she might lay several clutches. She does not incubate the eggs, so they must be well-disguised to avoid predators. The eggs have brittle shells and incubation lasts an average of 150 days, but can take as little as 105 days or as much as 202 days to hatch. As is the case with many reptiles, the eggs of red-footed tortoises are temperature sex dependent.

Incubation periods with temperatures above 88° Fahrenheit result in the hatching of females. Incubation periods with temperatures below 82° Fahrenheit result in the hatching of males. At incubation temperatures between these ranges, mixed sexes will hatch. Excessively high temperatures can cause lower hatch rates and deformed hatchlings.


Predators of the red and yellow footed tortoises include foxes, wild dogs, lizards, rats and skunks.