The red-footed tortoise is named so because of the red, yellow, and orange scales on its limbs, head, and tail. The length of the carapace in this species is approximately 10 - 14 inches; 16 inches at times. It's a sexually dimorphic species, i.e., the males are larger than the females. Mature male red-foots have longer and wider tails than the females. They weigh about 9 - 10 kg and have their plastron―the underside of their shell―moving inwards.
In the cherry head red-footed tortoise, which happens to be an eastern variant of the species, the plastron is darker and the nose, bulb-like.
A relatively rare species, the red-footed tortoise is found in Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, etc., and has now been introduced to the West Indies as well. The species can thrive in a range of habitats, including rainforests, dry thorny forests, forests with temperate climatic conditions, grasslands, etc. Interestingly, some are of the opinion that they prefer grasslands and dry forests over rainforests.
Red-footed Tortoises as Pets
Having these tortoises as pets is real fun. They should be kept in clean water, and their captive habitat should be cleaned once a week. As they are omnivorous in nature, you can feed them calcium-rich greens, such as lettuce leaves, hibiscus leaves, turnip greens, grape leaves, and collard greens; flowers, like hibiscus, nasturtium flowers, prickly-pear flowers, and dandelions; and fruits, such as mangoes, kiwis, plums, pineapples, peaches, strawberries, cantaloupes, and melons.
Additionally, they also eat dead and rotting bodies of animals, like snails, earthworms, and other insects. Spinach and kale can be fed in deficient amount. However, you should not feed them banana often; maybe once or twice in a month, if at all, but best avoided.
Breeding starts when they are 6 - 8 inches long. A mature red foot male is productive in warm and humid areas all throughout the year. A healthy pair can produce 2 - 4 clutches with 3 - 5 eggs every season. That, however, depends on the size of the female tortoise. Additionally, a protein-rich and/or calcium-rich diet does boost the chances of producing healthy eggs. The young ones hatch in temperatures between 82 - 85 °F.
Before adopting red-footed tortoises, you need to gain some valuable knowledgeable pertaining to them. As they are considered endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), they cannot be exported from their hometown without a permit. More importantly, you should have a vet, who has experience in treating such exotic species, at an easy reach, for obvious reasons.