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Yellow-footed Tortoise

Geochelone denticulata

Yellowfootedtortoise Gallery

About the Yellow-footed Tortoise

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Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Testudinidae
Genus: Geochelone
Species: denticulata

Yellow-footed tortoises are the largest tortoises on the mainland of South America. They're named for the yellow-orange scales on their front legs. These turtles make a sound like a baby cooing with a raspy voice. They have heavy claws for digging and their strong shells protect them from predators. Though their average weight is between 25 and 35 pounds, some turtles them can weigh more than 100 pounds!

Yellow-footed Tortoise Facts

Appearance:

Yellow-footed tortoises are the largest tortoises on the mainland of South America. They're named for the yellow-orange scales on their front legs. Both males and females have a thick, heavy shell, but a female's shell is more domed than the male's, and the plastron is concave in males. These tortoises have dark brown scales with patches of yellow. Their limbs and head are brown with some orange scales and markings. Some of them can weigh more than 100 pounds!

Tortoises have heavy claws for digging and their strong shells protect them from predators. 

Size:

  • Length: average 14 - 16 inches, up to 32 inches
  • Weight: 25 - 35 pounds; They can reach up to 100 pounds

Diet:

Grasses, leaves, fallen fruits, succulents, insects, snails, and carrion.

Reproduction:

Yellow-footed tortoises breed year round, but their nesting season is from June - September. Each clutch will have four to eight eggs, and females can lay several clutches each season in a flask-like, leaf litter cavity. The eggs themselves are elongated with brittle shells and incubate for 105 to 202 days. When they hatch, the young will dig their way out of the nest and become entirely self-sufficient. Yellow-footed tortoises reach sexual maturity at 8-10 years of age.

Behavior:

These turtles make a sound like a baby cooing with a raspy voice. They identify each other using body language - males distinguish other males from females by watching their head movements. If no responsive head movement is seen after two tortoises encounter each other, the male assumes the other individual is a female.

Habitat/range:

Yellow-footed tortoises live in the dense rainforests and tropical lowlands of South America, particularly in Panama, Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, the Guianas, Rio de Janeiro, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina. They are also found in Trinidad and Tobago and have been introduced to several Caribbean Islands.

Median Life Expectancy:

50 - 60 years

Conservation:

The biggest threat to the survival of yellow-footed tortoises is over-hunting by humans. Another threat facing yellow-foot populations is habitat loss and disturbance. Conservation efforts include the establishment and protection of wildlife reserves and national parks, where these animals and many others are protected from hunting.