Red Footed Tortoise


Red Footed Tortoise at the Brandywine ZooThe Brandywine Zoo has two Red Footed Tortoises, one male named Ricky and one female named Lucy. Both hatched in 2014 at the Newport Aquarium.

Rainforests, dry thorny forests, temperate forests, and savanna areas. It prefers heavily forested, humid habitats, but avoids muddy areas due to low burrowing capacity of these habitats.

South America from Panama to Argentina, and also on the Caribbean Islands of Trinidad and Barbados.

They are primarily herbivores and eat various grasses, leafy plants, flowers, fungi, and fruits.

Red footed tortoises typically have dark brown to black shells with dark-brown edges and pale-gold middles. Their red markings vary in amount and location and are influenced by geographic location, genetics, and diet. Young tortoises have small distinct areas of yellow or tan coloring surrounding or covering each bump. Bright red marks may appear on the head. The legs and tail often have patches of orange, yellow or red.

The average adult length is 11 to 14 inches, however, an adult male red foot tortoise can get up to 16 inches. The female is shorter.

A male red foot tortoise can weigh more than 20 pounds, while females are a little lighter.

Wild: 50 years
Under Human Care: 50+ years

The biggest threat to red footed tortoises is being over hunted by humans. Considered a delicacy in much of their range, thousands are eaten by humans. They are also threatened by habitat loss and other human activity, including drainage of wetlands for housing, agriculture, logging and road construction. Tortoises and turtles are particularly vulnerable, as humans often develop land next to rivers, lakes and seas where these species lay their eggs. Furthermore, the demands of the pet trade impacts populations so much that in the wild they may become extinct.

Red footed tortoises are not evaluated on the ICUN Red List.

Polygynous. Males make sounds and calls associated with distinct gular motions. Calls consist of a series of “clucks”, similar to those produced by chickens. Males compete for mates, and typically move their heads in a bobbing motion prior to wrestling. He who flips his competitor on his back gains access to the female and the opportunity to mate.
• When a male and female meet, they will use head motion to identify each other. Once mating is completed, the female simply walks off.
• Most red footed tortoises become sexually mature at around 5 years of age. They mate throughout the year in captivity, but nesting occurs from June through September.
• Females may nest several times during a season, depositing 2 to 15 eggs per clutch and incubation times range from 117 to 158 days.

Red footed tortoises are diurnal and appear to avoid moving great distances. Outside of their reproductive behavior, little else is known of the general behavior of this species. They rely upon their keen sense of smell to locate food.

The red footed tortoise is a solitary, non-social species, and only interact for the purpose of mating.

• Males produce sounds and calls associated with distinct gular motions that are meant to attract potential mates and ward off competitors. Calls consist of a series of “clucks”, similar to those produced by chickens.
• Males will move their heads up and down before attempting to mate with a female.


Red footed tortoises are most active during the day and immediately after rain.

These tortoises are have splatters of red on their feet and yellow on their heads. As males get older, they develop a distinctive hour-glass shape.

When resting, Red footed tortoises barely move. Termites have even built tunnels on top of their carapaces.

When the weather is cool, the tortoises metabolism slows down , enabling them to survive on very little food.  A mature tortoise can go for nearly a month on one banana.

What are AZA Zoos doing for Red Footed Tortoises?

Many AZA zoos have red footed tortoises as ambassador animals to educate the public.