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Yellow-Footed Tortoise

Scientific Classification

Common Name
yellow-footed tortoise, South American tortoise, South American forest tortoise
Testudines (somes sources cite as Chelonia)
Genus Species
Geochelone denticulata

Fast Facts

Shell is thick and heavy; shell is dark brown with patches of yellow; limbs and head are brown with some orange scales and markings; skin is black with yellow markings on the head and lower jaw; some scales on the limbs and tail are bright yellow
Male: 40 cm (16 in)
Female: 60-75 cm (24-30 in)
11.25-15.75 kg (25-35 lbs.)
Grasses, succulent plants, fallen fruit, and carrion
Generally from 105-202 days
Clutch Size: 4-8 eggs
Breeding Period: Year round
Sexual Maturity
8-10 years
Life Span
50 years
South America
Dense rainforest and tropical lowlands
Global: No data
IUCN: No data
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Yellow-footed tortoises are named for the yellow-orange scales on their front legs.
  2. They mate year round. Males tell other males from females by watching for head movements. If no responsive head movement is seen after two tortoises encounter each other, the male assumes the other individual is a female.
  3. Yellow-footed tortoises are hunted for food in their native countries. Tortoises are considered "fish" by the Catholic Church and during holy week, red and yellow-foots are consumed in huge quantities.
  4. In some parts of Venezuela the local people may set fire to entire hillsides so that they are able to harvest exposed (and presumably often roasted) tortoises.

Ecology and Conservation

In its range, the biggest threat to the survival of yellow-footed tortoises is over-hunting by man. Yellow-foots are collected in large numbers and shipped to many different South American cities to be sold as a delicacy. Another threat facing yellow-foot populations is the ever-present habitat loss and disturbance.

Exportation for the pet trade also has a negative effect on yellow-footed tortoises, although it is much less of a threat to their survival than either hunting or habitat loss. The natural history of the yellow-footed tortoise provides insight into two areas, the susceptibility of this species to over-hunting and habitat loss, and captive husbandry and reproduction. The yellow-footed tortoise is not currently endangered, however if over-hunting and habitat loss continue, it will most likely make the list. Conservation efforts include the establishment and protection of wildlife reserves and national parks, where yellow-footed tortoises and other animals are protected from hunting.


Ernst, C. & R. W. Barbour. Turtles of the World, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC and London, 1989.

Pritchard, P. C. H. Encyclopedia of Turtles, T.F.H. Publications, New Jersey, 1979.

Russell, Virginia. African Spurred Tortoise. The Cold Blooded News, V24: 7. July, 1997.

Walker, P. 1989. "Geochelone carbonaria Red-footed Tortoise" In Conservation Biology of Tortoises ed. Swingland, I. R. and W. Michael. Kelvyn Press, Inc. Broadview Il.

Honolulu Zoo.