Redfoot Tortoises by Linda Jones

 I first saw redfoot tortoises when I was visiting some friends who do a lot of work with tortoises and turtles including rescue, teaching and research.

 They had a few adults and some hatchlings and I was amazed at how shy the young one seemed to be, but how this changed as they matured and totally amazed at the adults. They are so friendly, calm and interested in what is happening in their surroundings. They even seem to be able to live with other redfoots and be at peace with each other, unlike their yellow foots which seemed to just fight each other.

 After much consideration I had a couple of hatchlings from them and bought them home. I had a large terrarium/wooden type home for them ready. This was the start of my love for redfoots and also an awful lot of learning and research to take place.

It is years later now and I still love my redfoots but if anyone thinks that it is easy looking after them, then they are very wrong.

 I now have experience with juveniles, middle sized and adult sized ones and I hope that this piece will help you to decide whether these are the tortoises for you, or not.

There is nothing as lovely as a juvenile tortoise and redfoots are beautiful with their red scales on their legs and the colouration of each scute. But a juvenile redfoot requires special conditions or it will die.

It is years later now and I still love my redfoots but if anyone thinks that it is easy looking after them, then they are very wrong.

 

I now have experience with juveniles, middle sized and adult sized ones and I hope that this piece will help you to decide whether these are the tortoises for you, or not.

 

There is nothing as lovely as a juvenile tortoise and redfoots are beautiful with their red scales on their legs and the colouration of each scute. But a juvenile redfoot requires special conditions or it will die.


 Redfoots originate from South America and have also been introduced to the Caribbean Islands.

A juvenile redfoot in the wild will usually live on the edge of the tropical forest under the leaves etc that are on the floor. They are shy animals at this age and they like to hide away. This means that you need to provide an area that is humid, warm, and has enough shelter for them to hide away. If a juvenile redfoot does not have a humid environment then they will become very ill and may die. As they tend to hide in the wild I have found that they have a problem with heat lamps because of the light and do not bask as often as other tortoises, so they need to be able to hide away from it.

 

 

To provide a humid area you need to have warmth and moisture. To do this I use a substrate of topsoil, peat, sphagnum moss, bed a beast and chopped bark mixed together. This allows me to spray it each day and it holds the moisture.

 

On the wall of the wooden terrarium I have a tubular heater which is on all the time. I have a basking lamp hung so that the floor beneath it gets to 30°C which they do use occasionally throughout the

The basking lamp at night goes off but the tubular heater stays on. This ensures that they have a background heat of 25-27during the day and no lower than 20C during the night. I also have a new style household oil heater in the shed that goes on at night to ensure that the temperatures do not drop.

 

 

I have an opening in the wooden/terrarium so that they can come outside and walk around. If they cannot get outside then you do need to provide a source of UVB so that they obtain D3. M can all go outside so I do not provide this unless the weather in the winter gets very bad

 

 From the shed they are able to go outside to an outdoor area.

In this area there are places to hide and plenty of areas to walk around and exercise. These are fairly large and powerful tortoises when they become adults and need to be able to exercise.

 

 

You must also ensure that the fencing is tall enough and well maintained enough as these tortoises are strong and they can climb.

 

Below is a picture of a redfoot climbing up a fence with its back against a plant and the post to the side. The fence has now been moved further away and no post.

She is searching for a way out - and then she found she could use the post and tree to climb up and over.

 

 This area has water available so that they can get into it and I have also provided a greenhouse which they can go into whenever they wish.

 

 

 When the weather is hot I spray the greenhouse so that this area is humid for them.

Redfoots must be able to soak regularly through the day so ensure that clean water is made available.

Redfoots must be put in at night as they cannot stay out incase the weather goes cold. These tortoises must be kept warm at all times.

 

Every week my redfoots have a long soak in a warm bath, then I give them a wash and during this time I check them over to ensure that they are okay and have no damage or problems.

 

Feeding Redfoots is not cheap as they do require tropical fruit, vegetables and mushrooms in their diet. Following is a list of foods that I use during each week. Every 4th day I do not add any food to their area which gives them the chance to forage and keep them interested in their areas.

 

They are omnivorous which means that they eat both plant and animal but too much protein can cause pyramiding so you have to be very careful.

They will usually take any slugs, snails, worms, bugs that appear in their pen which will be enough, But in the winter if they cannot get these things then you could feed the odd pinkie or a little cooked chicken, but not a lot.

 

Do not feed Iceberg Lettuce, Grains e.g. bread, Dairy, Processed or Pellet foods.

 

All foods must have the addition of calcium carbonate (limestone flour) daily and a pinch of Nutrobal twice a week.

 

Foods for Redfoots:-

 

Salad Items occasionally - Romaine, Endive, Chicory, Radicchio, Kale and Florette Salad

 

Vegetables occasionally - Squash, Zucchini, Pumpkin, Carrots, Mushrooms & Peppers.

 

Fruits Daily - Papaya, Mango, Strawberries, Kiwi, Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Cactus fruit, Star fruit, Melon

 

Plants & Weeds - Hibiscus, Opuntia, Hosta, Sedum, Ice Plant, Spider plant, Prickly Pear, Dandelion, Plantain, Clover, Mallow, Rose, Cornflowers, Grape leaves, Forsythia, Nasturtiums, Pre Alpin

 

This is a selection of foods fed one day and includes pre alpin, weeds, romaine, mushrooms, mango, kiwi, hibiscus flowers & leaves, grape leaves, mallow with a dusting of calcium carbonate (limestone flour)

 

 

 

Redfoots DO NOT hibernate and must never be allowed to go cold. This also means that you have to keep the temperatures correct for 365 days per year. If you cannot provide this then a Redfoot is not the tortoise fro you.

 

You will kill it if you try and let it hibernate.

 

 

If you are thinking of getting redfoots then a good book to read is by Mike Pingleton and called "Practical Care and Maintenance of The Redfoot Tortoise"