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Yellow-footed tortoise :

Chelonoidis denticulata




From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 


The yellow-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis denticulata), also known as the Brazilian giant tortoise, is a species of tortoise in the family Testudinidae and is closely related to the red-footed tortoise (C. carbonaria). It is found in the Amazon Basin of South America.


With an average length of 40 cm (15.75 in) and the largest known specimen at 94 cm (37 in), this is the sixth-largest tortoise species on Earth, after the Galapagos tortoise, the Aldabra tortoise, theAfrican spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata, typical size 76 cm (30 in)), the leopard tortoise(Stigmochelys pardalis), and the Asian forest tortoise (Manouria emys emys, typical size 60 cm (23.6 in)).

Yellow-footed tortoise

Taxonomy :


The yellow-footed tortoise is also called the yellow-foot or yellow-legged tortoise, the Brazilian giant tortoise, or South American forest tortoise, as well as local names such as morrocoy, woyamou orwayamo, or some variation of jabuta. Many of the local names are shared with the similar red-footed tortoise.[2]


Originally, Karl Linnaeus assigned all turtles and tortoises to the genus Testudo and identified this species as Testudo denticulata in 1766 with testudo meaning turtle, anddenticulata meaning 'tooth-like', referring to the jagged or serrated edges of the shell. Soon the term Testudo was only being used for tortoises as opposed to all chelonians, with tortoises defined by completely terrestrial behaviors, heavy shells, and elephant-like limbs with nails but no visible toes. The species got several other names, as well, for several reasons such as difficulty in distinguishing it from the red-footed, confusion over locations, researchers thinking they had discovered a new species in collections or in the field, etc.


Leopold Fitzinger created the genus Geochelone, meaning 'earth turtle' for medium-to-large tortoises that did not come from the Mediterranean area (which remainedTestudo), or have other special characteristics such as the hinged shells of the Kinixys genus. Fitzinger further used the term Chelonoidis as a subgenus to categorizeGeochelone from South America. Neither term was widely used until they were resurrected by researchers such as Williams in 1960.[3]


Researchers such as Roger Bour and Charles Crumly separated Geochelone into different genera based largely on their skulls. They created or re-established several genera- Aldabrachelys, Astrochelys, Cylindraspis, Indotestudo, Manouria, and Chelonoidis. The debate is on-going over the definitions and validity of some of these genera. Chelonoidis is primarily defined as being from South America, lacking a nuchal scute (the marginal scute located over the neck) and a large, undivided supracaudal (the scute or scutes directly over the tail).[4]


Chelonoidis is made up of two very different-looking groups- the C. carbonaria group with the yellow-footed and red-footed tortoises; and the C. chilensis group with theGalapagos tortoises (C. niger), Argentine tortoise (C. chilensis), and Chaco tortoise (C. petersi). The taxonomic and evolutionary relationship of these two groups is poorly understood.[5]



Chelonoidis denticulata

Conservation status

Scientific classification :









Species:C. denticulata


Binomial name

Chelonoidis denticulata
(Linnaeus, 1766)


-Testudo denticulata Linneasus 1766

-Testudo tabulata Walbaum, 1782(nomen illegitimum)

-Testudo tessellata Schneider, 1792

-Testudo tabulata Schoepff, 1793

-Testudo terrestris americanaSchweigger, 1812

-Testudo terrestris brasiliensisSchweigger, 1812

-Testudo terrestris var. cayennensisSchweigger, 1812

-Testudo terrestris surinamensis'Schweigger, 1812

-Chersine denticulata Merrem, 1820

-Chersine tessellata Merrem, 1820

-Testudo cagado Spix, 1824

-Testudo hercules Spix, 1824

-Testudo sculpta Spix, 1824

-Chersine tabulata Gravenhorst, 1829

-Testudo planata Gmelin, 1831(nomen nudum)

-Testudo foveolata Schinz, 1833(nomen nudum)

-Geochelone (Chelonoidis) tabulataFitzinger, 1835

-Geochelone (Geochelone) denticulata Fitzinger, 1835

-Chelonoides tabulata Agassiz, 1857

-Chelonoidis tabulata Agassiz, 1857

-Chelonoidis denticulata Fróes, 1957

-Chelonoides denticulata Obst, 1980

-Geochelone denticulta Richard, 1999(ex errore)

Beautiful Amazon Yellow Footed Tortoise - Chelonoidis denticulata - Reptiles - Turtle

Physical characteristics and appearance :


Yellow-footed tortoises are a large species - fifth-largest overall and third-largest mainland species, after the Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea), Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra), African spurred tortoise, and Asian forest tortoise. Typical sizes average 40 cm (15.75 in), but much larger specimens are common. The largest know specimen is a female that was 94 cm (37 in) long.[6] They closely resemble the red-footed tortoise, and can sometimes be difficult to tell apart, especially as a preserved specimen, which led to quite a bit of confusion over the names and ranges.

The carapace (shell top) is a long oval with parallel sides and a high-domed back that is generally flat along the vertebrals (scutes or shell scales along the top of the carapace) with a slight peak near the hind end. There are five vertebral scutes, four pairs of costals, eleven pairs of marginals, no nuchal scute (the marginal over the neck) and a large,

undivided supracaudal (the marginals over the tail). The front and rear marginals (scutes along the edge of the carapace) are slightly serrated in front and rear of young yellow-footed tortoises. The carapace is yellowish brown to dark brown or even black at the edges of the scutes. The areola in each scute are pale yellow, orange or light brown and blend into the darker carapace.


The plastron (shell bottom) is thick around the edges, and the gulars (front pair of palstron scutes) do not project past the carapace. The plastron is yellow-brown turning nearly black near the seams.



The head is relatively small and longer than wide. The upper jaw has three tooth-like points. There are large black eyes with a tympanum behind each eye. The skin of the head and limbs is black with yellow to orange scales on top and around the eye and ear. The forelimbs have five claws, are long and slightly flattened. They are covered with fine, dark scales and slightly overlapping larger scales on front in the same color as the head. The hind limbs are elephant-like with four claws, and are covered in small scales colored like the forelimbs. The tail varies in length by gender and has a row of colored scales on the sides.[7]


Sexual dimorphism :


Adult males average slightly larger than females, but the largest specimens tend to be females. Males develop a distinctive incurving of sides, giving them a well-defined "waist", and a deeply in-curved plastron. The female has a short, conical tail, while the male has a longer, more muscular tail that is generally carried tucked along one side. The anal notch of the male is also larger, presumably to allow better tail mobility.[8]


Natural habitat :


There is some disagreement as to which habitat is the preferred type for yellow-footed tortoises. Some feel they prefer grasslands and dry forest areas, and that rain-forest habitat is most likely marginal. Others suggest humid forest is the preferred habitat. Regardless, they are found in drier forest areas, grasslands, and the savanna, or rainforest belts adjoining more open habitats. The red-footed tortoise shares some of its range with the yellow-footed tortoise. In ranges shared in Surinam, the red-footed tortoise has moved out of the forests into grasslands (created a result of slash and burn agriculture), while the yellow-footed tortoise has remained in the forest.


Behavior :


These tortoises make a sound like a baby cooing with a raspy voice. Tortoises also identify each other using body language. The male tortoise makes head movements toward other males, but the female does not make these head movements. Male tortoises also swing their heads back and forth in a continuous rhythm as a mating ritual. Mating occurs all year round for the yellow-footed tortoise. There is no parental care of the young and the baby tortoises will fend for themselves, starting by eating calcium-rich plant matter.







This South American tortoise eats many kinds of foliage. They are too slow to capture any fast animals. In the wild, their diets consist of grasses, fallen fruit, carrion, plants,bones, mushrooms, excrement, and slow-moving invertebrates such as snails, worms, and others they are able to capture. In captivity, they are fed oranges, apples, melons, endive, collard greens, dandelions, plantain, ribwort, clover, shredded carrots, insects, worms, cuttlebone, tortoise vitamins, edible flowers, 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 her size; the bigger they are, the more eggs they can produce. On average, a female will create about six to 16 eggs per year, although some female individuals may not reproduce each year. The eggs have brittle shells and are elongated to spherical, about 3–6 cm in diameter. The egg size will increase with the body size of the tortoise. The young are self-sufficient from birth. The yellow-footed tortoise can live around 50–60 years.

Reproduction and growth:


Breeding is synchronized with the onset of the rainy season (from July to September), where a general increase in activity is noted. Males identify each other by eliciting a characteristic head movement, a series of jerks away from and back to mid-position. Another male will make the same head movements. No head movement in response is the first indication that the other tortoise is a female. Scientific experimentation and observation has also indicated head coloration has to be correct. He will then sniff the cloacal region of the other tortoise. Copulation usually follows, though sometimes there is a period of biting at the legs. During courtship and copulation, the male makes clucking sounds very much like those of a chicken, with a set pattern in pitches of the clucking sounds. Rival males will battle, attempting to overturn each other, but neither the males nor females will defend a territory. They are considered nomadic in their movements. Interestingly, in almost every tortoise species where male combat occurs, the males are always larger than the females. This is in comparison to aquatic species, where the males are usually smaller than the females and do not engage in male-to-male combat. Species with male combat are thought to have evolved larger males because they have a better chance of winning a bout and mating with a female, thus passing on their larger size to their offspring. Species with smaller males evolved because smaller males are more mobile and can mate with a large number of females, thus passing on their genes.

A Brazilian giant tortoise at Yasuni National Park, Ecuador

Conservation status:


Chelonoidis denticulata is an endangered species. The major populations located in South America are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Appendix II.

As with many species of turtles and tortoises, many Brazilian giant tortoises end up as food items in local markets.

This species of tortoise is popular in the pet trade.

Adult yellow footed tortoises.

Yellow-foot Tortoise

South American Yellow Footed Tortoise, Brazilian Giant, Forest Tortoise

Family: Testudinidae


courtesy to :

Geochelone denticulata

   The Yellow-foot Tortoise is a very attractive and sought after tortoise!


Yellow-foot Tortoises are not as colorful as their kin, the Red-footed Tortoise, and they have the reputation of being more delicate. Even so, captive-hatched Yellow-foot Tortoises are among the best pet tortoises. They are very personable and fairly easy to keep.


 Though they are typically very shy tortoises, the Yellow-foot Tortoises are fairly large and quite active. Like all tortoises they are also quite long-lived. Provide a good environment with plenty of space to exercise, a variety of shelters to give them a feeling of security, and the proper diet, and they can make wonderful pets.




 Red-footed Tortoises are found in the tropical and humid forest areas of South America. They inhabit Guianas, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Columbia, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, and there are some on the Caribbean islands. They live in the underbrush and forage for fallen fruit, plant growth, and will even eat carrion.




This tortoise is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: VU - Vulnerable and and listed on CITES: Appendix II.




Though quite similar in appearance to their kin, the Red-footed Tortoise, the Yellow-foot Tortoise is not quite as colorful. The primary distinction between these two tortoises is the color of the scales on their front legs, and thus their common names. There is a presence of yellow scales on the front legs of the Yellow-footed Tortoise rather than the red scales of the Red-footed Tortoise.
   A few other distinctions of the Yellow-foot Tortoise are a light golden brown background shell color though the background color of the head and limbs are also dark. These tortoises also tend to have a bit wider and flatter overall shape, and they lack the 'hourglass' form of the carapace (upper shell) that is characteristic of the adult male Red-footed Tortoise. Size-wise, they are a bit larger with some specimens reaching 26" - 28" (66 - 71 cm), though most will only reach 14" - 16" (35 - 41 cm). Males tend to have an even flatter carapace than the females, longer and wider tails, and a very concave plastron (bottom shell).


Care and Feeding:


Yellow-foot Tortoises are omnivores, eating both animal and plant material in nature. In captivity they will feed eagerly on a mixed salad of fruits and vegetables every other day. They should also be fed some higher protein items once or twice a week. Dead mice, Mazuri Tortoise Diet®, Zupreem Primate Diet®, and other commercial foods are also great additions to the Yellow-foot Tortoise's diet.


Water should be offered in a large flat saucer. This can be a cat litter pan sunk into the substrate (make sure the tortoise can climb in and out easily) or a large plastic saucer which is normally placed under a potted plant. These can be easily cleaned and sterilized once a week or as needed.




Yellow-foot Tortoises are found in tropical and humid forest areas. They live in the underbrush and forage for fallen fruit, plant growth, and will even eat carrion. A pair of adults will require an enclosure that is at least 4' wide x 6' long.
   The substrate can be a mixture of ½ sand and ½ peat moss. A layer of cypress mulch should be placed over the top of the substrate to help hold in moisture. The substrate can be kept dry if a large water source is provided, such as a shallow flower pot for small specimens and a tub for larger specimens. The space underneath the Yellow-foot Tortoise's favorite shelter should be sprayed with water once or twice a week to keep this area damp.
   Typically being a very shy tortoise, Yellow-foot Tortoises appreciate a variety of shelters to give them a feeling of security. Add large pieces of curved cork bark, large banana leaves, piles of straw or hay, or grass clippings for the tortoises to use as shelter. The shelter should be located at the cooler end of the enclosure and not directly under the heat-emitting lamps.


Provide heat using a heat-emitting bulb in a clamp-type fixture over the enclosure. Ideally, you can hang a fixture overhead that will hold the bulb and keep it about 12" above the surface of the substrate. Most of these bulbs get very hot and so should be kept in a fixture with a ceramic base. The heat-emitting bulbs should provide a basking spot of 90{deg} F (32{deg} C) at one end of the enclosure. The heat in this area will allow the Yellow-foot Tortoise to bask and to digest its food properly.


 Lighting can be provided with a shop light fixture overhead that is fitted with one or two UV-emitting bulbs. These can be found at your pet store or on-line from a variety of sources. UVB-heat bulbs® from T-Rex products and Zoomed Reptisun® bulbs will provide UV radiation to the enclosure. This UVB is necessary for Vitamin D3 synthesis, which allows the tortoises to properly use calcium and to carry on metabolism.




The most common form of indoor accommodation for small or medium sized Yellow-foot Tortoises is a large terrarium. You can also use plastic tubs, wooden cages, and other enclosures. Glass terrariums are easy to find at the local pet store and they come in a variety of sizes. Of course, as the tortoise grows, it will need larger and larger enclosures.




Yellow-foot Tortoises benefit from being kept outdoors for all or part of their lives. They received doses of UVB radiation, environmental heat, and of course enjoy a connection to the grass, plants, and soil found in outdoor pens. Outdoor enclosures should offer shelter from heat, a secure place to rest, and a water source. Food offered to tortoises and can be supplemented by plantings of some of their favorite grasses, fruits, and vegetables within the enclosure. Also be very diligent to make sure that outdoor enclosures are escape-proof and predator-proof.




 As a shy species, most Yellow-foot Tortoises will not enjoy being handled. They will often retreat into their shells and stay tightly wedged in with their large, scaly legs covering their heads. Of course, there are always exceptions. Occasionally very outgoing, almost tame, Yellow-foot Tortoises are seen. These are usually specimens that have been raised from small, captive-hatched babies and which are open to daily interaction over many years.




An established pair of Red-footed Tortoises can be very prolific and in warm areas can produce year-round. A light winter cooling, followed by warm, rainy days triggers breeding in Yellow-foot Tortoises. Males are typically eager breeders and a healthy pair can produce two clutches of 6 to 12 eggs each season, depending on the size of the female. These clutches are typically laid four to six weeks apart.


It is felt by most keepers that the addition of protein and calcium to female Yellow-foots' diets is essential in having them produce clutches of healthy, viable eggs. The young Yellow-foots hatch in 100 to 120 days when incubated at 84{deg} F.


Ailments / Health Problems:


As with most other tortoises Yellow-foot Tortoises are found in warm habitats. Thus, their captive enclosures should reflect this need. When kept cool for an extended period of time, you can expect a Yellow-foot Tortoise to begin showing respiratory problems. The early signs are puffy eyes, runny noses, etc. You should strive to maintain an enclosure that is hot and humid (but not soggy) to avoid these health issues.




Be Aware:

  • As Yellow-foot Tortoises are really only available as captive-hatched babies these days, you should not be concerned about internal parasites.

  • HOWEVER, many of the Red-footed Tortoises available on-line are "farm-raised" specimens. These tortoises are being produced in large numbers on farms which are basically fenced off natural areas in their native habitat.

  • These animals have arrived in great condition, but some have internal parasites from being fed in large numbers on the soil on these farms.

  • If you are buying a farm-raised animal (a 4 - 5" animal from Suriname, Venezuela, etc. from a dealer and not the actual breeder) you should have a veterinarian run a fecal exam for you.

  • Collect a fecal sample in a plastic bag and take it to your local veterinarian. They will check it and offer treatment options for you.




REMEMBER: Ivermectin, a famous wormer in the cattle industry, 
will KILL your tortoise. 
(You might even remind your veterinarian of this fact though most will know.)

   Long-term lack of appetite, runny or smelly stools, and blood in the feces are signs of a problem and a keeper should approach a qualified veterinarian if any of these signs are noticed.



Yellow-foot Tortoises are available from better reptile stores, on-line, or at reptile shows and expos. Though captive breeding of Yellow-foot Tortoises is nowhere near that of Red-footeds, Leopards, or sulcatas, there is some production happening in the U. S. and captive-hatched specimens are increasing in numbers.
   Try to purchase your tortoise from a breeder or someone with intimate knowledge of tortoises. Be careful when purchasing a tortoise on-line. There are many many imported Yellow-foot Tortoises arriving into the pet trade (see ailments above). These animals are definitely not the best for beginning keepers. Actually for most keepers, wild-caught Yellow-foots should be avoided. Recently imported Yellow-foots are typically stressed, dehydrated, and will harbor a variety of internal parasites.
   Captive-hatched animals from a breeder are an excellent choice. A breeder will help you set up the proper enclosure and will give you helpful hints so you are successful. Also, if you don't have to ship your tortoise, that is always best. A beginning keeper should purchase a tortoise that is at least three months old to make sure it is past the delicate stage.

Yellow-foot Tortoise – Geochelone denticulata  


courtesy to :  - Chris Tabaka DVM and Darrell Senneke 

This care sheet is intended only to cover the general care of this species. Further research to best develop a maintenance plan for whichever species/subspecies you are caring for is essential. 


Yellow-foot tortoises are more subdued in their beauty as compared with a number of the tortoises of the genus Geochelone. Nevertheless they are a sought after addition in many collections the world over.  A holdover perhaps from the days when many species of giant tortoises roamed both islands and the mainland,  they are known as the third largest of the extant  (living) mainland tortoises.  This designation is somewhat misleading as there are some that never grow beyond 14 inches (34 cm) as adults.  While there are adult Geochelone denticulata that are over 22 inches (55 cm)  and even  28 inches  (70 cm) in length,  these individuals  are fairly rare with most reaching only 16  - 20 inches (40 cm – 50 cm). 

Upon initial sighting, a Yellow-foot tortoise looks very similar to the closely related Red-foot tortoise, Geochelone carbonaria, with the primary distinction being the presence of yellow scales on the forelegs of G. denticulata and red scales on the forelegs of G. carbonaria  (thus the common names for each).  However, of all of the differences for these two species, this is actually the most variable.  While Red-foots may be more intensely colored, this is not a universal distinction; there are Yellow-foots that are very brightly patterned and comparatively drab Red-foots.  While there are numerous morphometric differences between these two species, by far the easiest method of telling Red-foots and Yellow-foots apart is the differences in the scalation of their heads. Yellow-foots have elongated prefrontal scales and a fragmented frontal scale.  Red-foots have shortened prefrontals and an intact frontal scale. The prefrontal and frontal scales are the scales at the tip of the nose.  In addition to this obvious difference, female Red-foot tortoises are more elongated, looking much like a loaf of bread while older male Red-foots tend to develop an hourglass shape.   Adult Yellow-foots of both sexes  tend to be wider/ rounder  and somewhat flatter in their overall shape.


Comparison of Prefrontal Scales of Geochelone denticulata and Geochelone carbonaria: 

 Yellow-foot Tortoise

Red-foot Tortoise

The Yellow-foot tortoise is found in South America over a wide range from Bolivia through Brazil.  This species is a true “rainforest” species and as such its care requirements are more restrictive than those for the wider ranging / multi-habitat Red-foot.  While the two species are sympatric (share habitat) in some locations it appears that only the Red-foot tortoise will venture out of the forest into the grasslands and the associated brighter sunlight.  The rainforest is typified by being a very stable environment, humidity is high, and temperature swings between night and days are fairly narrow.  In addition to this, in rainforests the lighting is dim.  It is these conditions that we seek to match when providing for Yellow-foots, providing a high humidity environment with night temperatures above 65 degrees F (18 C) and day temperatures below 95 degrees F (35 C). Yellow-foots are less tolerant to very high temperatures than Red-foots, possibly because they have less tendency to wallow in shallow water and mud during times of extreme heat.  They stress easily and providing a dim area such as large plantings / ground cover for hiding is of paramount importance.


HOUSING YELLOW-FOOTS INDOORS - The most common form of indoor accommodation for small or medium sized Yellow-foot Tortoises consists of a “turtle table’. To all appearances this looks like a bookshelf unit flipped onto its back. A reasonable size habitat for a hatchling is 2 feet by 3 feet (60 cm by 90 cm), as the animal grows the size of this habitat should be increased. For a large adult Yellow-foot tortoise the indoor accommodation should be at least 8 feet by 4 feet (240 cm by 120 cm). Into the bottom of this “turtle table” ( How to Build an Indoor Land Turtle Table by David T. Kirkpatrick Ph.D)  holes can be cut to allow for the sinking of food, water and eventually nesting containers flush with the surface for easier animal access. 


The water area of the habitat should be large enough to allow the tortoise to soak in it if it wishes - it must also be shallow enough to protect from drowning. As a substrate in the dry portion of the environment cypress mulch works well.

In one corner of the environment a 100W spot lamp should be positioned to provide artificial basking facilities. This should be positioned to provide a basking spot of 90 degrees F (32 degrees C)  or so in that section of the habitat.  The habitat should also be equipped with a full spectrum fluorescent light to provide for UVB. A UVB source is necessary for Vitamin D3 syntheses (needed in calcium metabolism). There should be a hide box located in the corner away from the basking spot to allow the animal a dim retreat. 

OUTDOOR HOUSING - Predator proof outdoor habitats offer many advantages over indoor accommodations and should seriously be considered as an option during warm weather.  A heated night house should be provided (thermostatically controlled ceramic heaters work well for this) in the event that the tortoise is to be kept outdoors in areas with cool nights.  Outdoor pens should be heavily planted with areas of low bushes, ferns and other sun-blocking plants to enduge their need for dim retreats.    


 DIET - Yellow-foots are omnivorous, consuming both animal and plant material in the wild though the need for meat products seems to be not as important as it is for Red-foots.  In captivity this may be duplicated by supplemental feeding with a prepared food such as Mazuri Tortoise Diet with it’s associated somewhat higher protein content. Meat should not be fed as a part of the daily diet.  High quality commercial foods have the advantage of being supplanted with vitamins and minerals needed in the Yellow-foot’s diet. Occasional earthworms may be fed as well. 

The diet offered should consist of:


·         Leafy greens  (dandelions, clover, endive etc.)  

·         Fruits

·         Prepared (commercial) tortoise diets

For proper growth as well as egg production, proper dietary calcium ratios are necessary.   Powdered calcium can be sprinkled on all foods once a week to help meet these requirements.   Provision of a cuttlefish bone, which can be gnawed if required, is also recommended. The substrate of choice is cypress mulch or something possessing the same humidity holding properties in order to keep their shells/skin from drying out in captive conditions. In outdoor pens in areas of high sand content,  food  should not be placed directly on sandy soil. Sand can build up in the tortoises GI tract leading to possible impaction and even death.  A completely separate sand-free area in the habitat should be utilized to feed. 


MEDICAL NOTES:  As with all species of turtles and tortoises, wild caught animals should be avoided.  In particular, freshly imported Yellow-foots are noted for difficulties in acclimating them to captivity.  Wild caught specimens often exhibit a fading sydrome resulting in death  even with aggressive medical care.  If possible, only captive born specimens should be considered.


Well acclimated Yellow-foot tortoises do not pace or move around as much as most tortoises but tend to be ravenous feeders.  This can result in obesity.  Careful watch should be kept on their weight and any loss or sustained gain in a non-actively growing animal should be noted and addressed.


This species does not hibernate in nature.  Facilities should be provided for the continued health and well being of the tortoise indoors in cooler conditions.  


It should be noted that turtle and tortoise care research is ongoing. As new information becomes available we share this on the World Chelonian Trust web site at Serious keepers find it to be a benefit to have the support of others who keep these species. Care is discussed in our free online email community, which may be joined from the web address above. Please contact us about the many benefits of becoming a member of the World Chelonian Trust.

Yellow-Footed Tortoise Versus Red-Footed Tortoise Care


courtesy to :



Yellow-footed tortoises (Geochelone denticulata) are found in deep, humid rain forest areas of southern Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, Brazil and Bolivia. They spend a great deal of time in and around water and in the leaves and undergrowth of moist tropical forests.


Although the yellow-footed tortoise is not as colorful as most red-footed tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonaria), they are still qui te beautiful. The yellow-footed tortoise is the largest tortoise on the mainland of South America. Most specimens grow to only 14 inches long, but some populat ions see individuals reaching 24 to 28 inches or more.



Yellow-footed tortoise

Indoor Housing Yellow-Footed Tortoises


Yellow-footed to rtoises are not quite as hardy as red-footed tortoises. They need more shade and more stable temperatures than red-footed tortoises. Small to medium yellow-footed tortoises can be housed in tortoise tables or tubs. A hatchling enclosure should measure 2 feet by 3 feet. Larger tortoises will need an area no smaller than 8 feet by 4 feet. Depending on the to rtoise’s size, walls should be 12 to 18 inches tall.


Artificial lighting in the form of a basking lamp should be positioned to provide a hotspot of 85 to 90 degrees Fah renheit. A full-spectrum UVB lamp should also be used. This is necessary for Vitamin D syntheses. Position a hide at the cool end of the enclosure. Your tortoise will appreciate a dark, quiet retreat.


A substrate that holds moisture is essential to keeping the humidity up for this forest-dwelling species. Good choices are untreated mul ch, long-fibered sphagnum moss mixed with organic top soil, and sand or peat moss. Water areas should be large enough to allow the tortoise to easily climb into to soak. Yellow-fo oted tortoises love to soak! Keep the water depth shallow—about 1 inch deep for hatchlings and no more than 3 inches deep for adults.


Outdoor Housing for the Yellow-Footed Tortoise


In the warmer months, a secure predator-proof outdoor enclosure should be provided for your yellow-footed tortoise. Pen walls should be at least 16 inches high. Heavily planted outdoor pens with non-toxic plants will allow your tortoise the many shaded areas necessary to protect them from harsh sun rays and allow for natural grazing behavior


The yellow-foot tortoise does not hibernate! They require a more stable environment then the red-f ooted tortoise. Temperatures in the rain forest do not change dramatically. Temperatures should not exceed 90 degrees in the day time without ample shaded areas. The nighttime tem peratures should not fall below 65 degrees. If temperatures do fall below that point, provide a heated night house or move the tortoise into an indoor pen.


Yellow-Footed Tortoise Diet


The yellow-footed tortoise is an omnivore. A healthy diet consists of leafy greens, such as chicory, e ndive, dandelions, spring mix, etc. Fruits are relished. In the wild, they eat a bit more fruit than red-footed tortoises. Some favorites are berries, melons, papaya, plums and pe aches. Animal protein should be offered no more than two to four times a month. Pinky mice and earthworms are good choices.


Red-Footed Tortoises versus Yellow-Footed Tortoises


There are differentiating factors in the shells of the red-footed tortoise and the yellow-footed tortoise that helps one tell them apart. In yellow-footed tortoises, the gular is even with the posterior portion of the carapace. In red-foots, the gular is shorter than the carapace. In the red-footed tortoise, the gulars extend back along the midline while the yellow-footed tortoise’s gular scute is longitudinally divided in the dorsal aspect, giving from the above view the appearance of four gulars. The yellow-foot’s humeral scute is longer than the femoral scute. In the red-footed tortoise, the femoral scute is usually longer than the hume ral scute. The yellow-foot’s inguinal scute is small. Red-footed tortoises have a short prefrontal nose scale and usually a large intact frontal scale. Yellow-footed tortoises hav e an elongated prefrontal scale and a fragmented frontal scale. Yellow-footed tortoise females get larger in comparison than males. In red-footed tortoises, the males get larger.

Red-footed tortoise.

Red-footed tortoises are more elongated and slightly higher-domed, while yellow-foots display a wider and more rounded appearance. Young yellow-foote d tortoises have a denticulated first marginal scute. Young red-foots do not have this. The yellow-foot tortoise is not always as personable as the red-foot tortoises, but they ca n become quite friendly.


Like the red-footed tortoise, the yellow-footed tortoise can live for well over 50 years with proper care.




Amanda Ebenhack has kept yellow-foot tortoises for more than 12 years and is a permitted wildlife rehabilitator in Florida. She is the author of Redfoots and Yellow foots: The Natural History, Captive Care and Breeding of Chelonoidis carbonaria and Chelonoidis denticulta, as well as the author of Health Care and Rehabilitation of Turtles and Tortoises. She maintains a small private turtle and tortoise rescue and sanctuary on 5 acres. For more information see

Feeding Natural Guava To Yellow Foot Tortoises

Care Videos : 

Yellow-Footed Tortoise care.

Creature Feature: Giant Amazon Basin Yellowfoot Tortoise

Yellow-footed tortoise - Video Learning -

Tortoises  -  Introduction Care and breeding - General information   PART one   ..  PART two 

                      -   Species List :                        

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