Red Footed Tortoise is a species of tortoise from northern South America. These medium-sized tortoises generally average 12 inches as adults. They are popularly kept as pets, and over-collection has caused them to be vulnerable to extinction.
Red footed tortoise natural habitat ranges from savannah to forest edges around the Amazon Basin. They are omnivorous animals with a diet based on a wide assortment of plants, fruits, and invertebrates.
In wild, they are prolific burrowers. They burrow to seek shelter, cool down from the heat, and to hide from predators. They feel most secure in a hiding spot where they fit tightly, such as a tree trunk, sometimes wedging several tortoises in at once. Also, they often display social behavior, such as sharing food and gathering in small groups. They’re not overly territorial of nesting or feeding sites unless two males are competing over a female.
An ideal enclosure for the red footed tortoise is a sturdy, escape-proof enclosure. You should set up a sprinkler to increase the humidity if needed in the enclosure. It loves to be in muddy wallow or puddle for cooling off. Build a shallow pool in the enclosure so that it can get in and out easily.
Provide your tortoise a shady area with hut or densely planted with vegetation for a cool retreat. The walls of the enclosure should be about 16 inches high and also a few inches below the ground to prevent your red footed tortoise from digging and escaping. If you think making outdoor enclosure take so much work or you live in studio, you can house this tortoise indoors, but you still need a large enclosure, 4 feet by 8 feet. Spot clean or scoop out pet wastes to keep good condition. Clean and disinfect the water container daily. As cold-blooded creatures, all reptiles including tortoise, need to regulate their body temperature. The average daytime temperature whether outside or indoors should be 85 to 90 degree Fahrenheit. The tortoise will also need a basking spot that reaches up 95 degree Fahrenheit.
If the temperature drops lower than 80 degree Fahrenheit, you will need to add a heat lamp. If nighttime temperatures drop to 70 degree Fahrenheit or lower, heat the outdoor shelter or bring in your tortoise to an environmentally controlled indoor enclosure. Temperatures lower than 70 degree Fahrenheit may put your pet at risk for developing a respiratory infection or hypothermia. Red footed tortoises do not hibernate, but they may start to slow down during the colder months, even if housed indoors.
Any tortoises require UVB rays to synthesize vitamin D3 for your shell friend. Vitamin D3 helps the tortoise absorb calcium, which is very crucial for bone structure and growth. A pan of water should be provided at all times for your tortoise to walk into. You may dig box of moist organic dirt or sphagnum moss at least 6 inches deep. Use a hygrometer or humidity gauge inside the cage to monitor moisture levels accurately.
Most pet owners use a substrate or bedding to line the bottom of the cage. In the case of tortoises, they need it for digging. Use cypress bark, orchid bark, or sphagnum moss as a substrate, which also helps retain humidity. Paper will also work and is easy to clean. Change the substrate every one to two weeks to prevent mold and excessive bacterial growth.
Feed them daily, in the morning, usually around the same time every day. The best dark, leafy greens for red-footed tortoises include dandelion greens, endive, mustard greens, and escarole. Avoid feeding large amounts of kale, spinach, and broccoli, these can be offered, but only in tiny amounts. Red footed tortoises tolerate fruit better than many other tortoise species. Different vegetables and fruits that are good to feed regularly include carrots, parsnip, sweet potato, papaya, figs, and hard melons. They can eat about 1 ounce of animal protein once every two weeks in the form of moistened low-fat cat food or lean meat. You can also offer tortoise pellets that are enriched with vitamins and minerals. Replenish its water pan daily with fresh, filtered water.
In captivity, red footed tortoises may act shy, hide often, or burrow. This is usually a stress response when around predators. In general, they prefer not to be handled but are docile and easy-going. Despite not having teeth, their beaks are strong, and they can bite. While bites are rare and usually unintentional, it can hurt.
Small children should not be handling turtles and tortoises, mostly due to the possibility of spreading salmonella. This bacteria lives in the intestinal tract of most reptiles, and it can cause illness in humans. Good hand-washing hygiene can prevent bacterial infection.
Unlike some other breeds of tortoise, the red-footed are relatively active during the day. In the wild, they spend most of their time digging and foraging. If they’ve eaten a large meal, however, they can spend as long as a week resting.
Red footed tortoise generally should have clear eyes, no signs of excess mucus, and a smooth shell without any deformity or decay. Consult the tortoise’s breeder if you can watch it eat. The only tortoise that refuses food is one that is ill. There are other symptoms that you need to watch out to keep them in good condition. Such as:
- Shell rot: Painful shell deformities due to fungal infection
- Parasitic infections: Internal (roundworms) and external (mites and ticks) both visible in feces and on their skin respectively
- Vitamin A deficiency: Swollen eyes or ear infections
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