Category Archives: Turtles n Tortoises

My favorite reptiles, tortoises and turtles

Care and Breeding YellowFoot Tortoises – Geochelone

In the Fall of 1997 I decided to start a breeding project to propagate Geochelone denticulata, the Yellowfoot Tortoise from South America. I start with a male specimen I got in Atlanta, a tortoise in captivity for twelve years with no other yellowfoot company.
Named “Elmo”, this large male geochelone denticulata is a voracious eater and a prodigious breeder. He even makes the gutteral “calls” to which I was first exposed on the CTTC Site. I bought two adult females from a place in Florida, these have been in the U.S. for thirteen or more years. They have laid eggs for the man in Florida, but without a male, he had none fertile.
Feeding time is a bustling event. These tortoises eat a prodigious amount, every day.
Look at how the female attacks the food!
Their diet is as follows:

  • Day one: Escarole & Squash
  • Day two: Turnip greens & Yams
  • Day three: Fasting
  • Day four: Romaine, Squash and Yams
  • Day five: Apples & Squash
  • Day six: Fasting
  • Day seven: Canned low fat dogfood.

Their outdoor facility is a nice, chainlink enclosure. It’s deficiency is that it’s not a dirt floor for egg-laying. I provide a box of peat for them to dig in if they desire.
I also keep water turtles, indoors overwinter. Their facility is pictured at left. The lighting is a metal halide pendant light and the filtration is a Bubble Bead Filter.
I am accumulating alot of information specific to Yellowfeet.

See a post below, I got from one of the greats.

“Denticulata for some reason are not kept as captive animals nearly as much as are carbonaria. They are a lot larger! Also a gorgeous animal……

They require even higher humidity that do Carbonaria…..because they strictly inhabit tropical forest areas in South America.

Temperature must also be kept at a very stable level, variations can and do cause severe illness. They MUST have constant access to drinking and “wading” water to sit in, which needs to be cleaned and replaced on a daily basis. A cement pond set to ground surface often works well. A drip irrigation system on timers installed to simulate rainfall is recommended. They love it!

You must keep the temp between 25 to 27 degrees C……and they need A LOT of room, they love to roam and get lots of exercise.

The diet is “basically” the same as Carbonaria, but a bit more fruit is required. Occasional animal protein as well, they love low fat canned dog food, offer every one or two weeks.

You can also soak monkey chow bisquits, some will eat them….do not offer more than once per week.

 

Wood Turtles Clemmys insculpta

Name: Wood Turtles

Scientific Name: Clemmys insculpta

Country of Origin: The wood turtle ranges from Nova Scotia south to northern Virginia and west through southern Ontario and New York to northeastern Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, eastern Minnesota, and northeastern Iowa.

What I like best about Wood Turtles is their intelligence. They’re pretty unafraid of people and I like that their eyes will move in their sockets, but they also turn their heads to “regard” things. They’re active and easy eaters. Pretty colors, too.

Introduction: Next to the Box Turtles(Terrapene) and the tortoises (Gopherus), this is the most terrestrial North American turtle. It can be found in most habitats within its range. They have been observed in deciduous woods, woodland bogs, and marshy fields (in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and New York)

Worth as a Pet: The Wood Turtle is perhaps the best turtle pet one could obtain. You should be cautious about obtaining adult specimens as many of these are wild-caught, and while they make fine pets, they are endangered over most of their range. Soon, they may only exist in captive bred populations. The Wood is a bright, intelligent and curious turtle which can solve problems and shows amazing agility.

Morphology: This medium sized turtle (to 10″) has a sculptured carapace which is broad, relatively flat, and deeply ringed. Each scute supports an irregular pyramid formed by a series of concentric growth rings and grooves. The carapace is gray to brown in color. The yellow plastron has a pattern of oblong dark blotches on each scute. The blackish head is largest of the Clemmys, but is still rather moderate in size. It has a nonprojecting snout and a notched upper jaw. Other skin is dark brown, usually having orange or red pigment on the neck and forelegs. It also has a rather long tail. The male has a long, thick tail, with the vent posterior to the carapacial rim; a concave plastron with a deep end notch; and prominent scales on the anterior surface of the forelimbs.

Feeding and Behavior: After spring downpours, it is often seen searching for worms in freshly plowed fields. it also likes slugs, insects, tadpoles, and wild fruits. Housing: They are as at home in water as they are on land. One specimen I have been aware of is reared in a completely aquatic environment with nothing but a log for landfall and basking. Landfall and basking in full spectrum sunlight is very important. Others are maintained in apartments and live only on the carpet. Still others, probably the happiest in captivity’ have a large leaf-litter peat/sphagnum moss landfall [pen] and an equally large, properly filtrated body of water to swim in. Lifespan: One lived 58 years in captivity.

Notes: An excellent climber, it can climb 6-foot (1.8 m) chain-link fences. The Wood Turtle was once taken for food and now suffers from over-collection and habitiat loss. It is currently protected in most states. They are easy to breed in captivity and the CB after getting started are worth no less than $400 each.

Spotted Turtles – Scientific Name: Clemmys guttata

Country of Origin: In the Northeastern United States, spotted turtles might be found in larger vernal pools, particularly those close to other wetland systems. Spotted turtles move about in search of feeding resources and are apt to feed upon salamander eggs in vernal pools. The spotted turtle is yet another species in decline in North America and should be protected whenever found. They are legally protected in a number of states. They range from southern Ontario and Maine southward along the Atlantic Coastal Plain to Northern Florida, and westward through Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, central Ohio, northern Indiana, and Michigan to Northeastern Illinios.

Introduction: The first turtle appeared on the Earth about 200 million years ago, long before the dinosaur [Jurassic period 130 Million years ago] was even a thought. Today, these popular and easily recognized creatures are found in almost every environment. There are 86 different genera in all, and there are 20 genera in North America.

Worth as a Pet: Spotted turtles are extremely adaptable to a variety of conditions except protracted chilling and dryness. They can be happy in moist peat, leaf litter, or sphagnum moss which is kept moist and [preferably] warm. They are just as ‘at home’ in water-turtle environments, swimming all the time with Red Ears and such. They do need a landfall for basking and sunning. For breeding, they will need a suitable landfall with soils of a variety of types so they can choose what they prefer. When eggs are discovered, they may be removed and incubated. Do not roll or invert the eggs. Usually, their small eggs go unnoticed and hatch the following year.

Morphology: This small (to 5 1/2″), black turtle has round yellow spots on its smooth carapace. Only the youngest turtles will have rings in their shells. The round yellow spots are transparent areas in the scutes, overlying patches of yellow pigment which may fade away with age. Some older individuals are completely spotless. The plastron [underside] is yellow to orange in color and has black blotches along the edge onto the bridge. Yellow spots are usually present on its head. Other skin color is gray to black, and occasional yellow spots occur on the neck and limbs. Males have tan chins; brown eyes; long, thick tails with the vent near the tip; and a slightly concave plastron. Females have yellow chins, orange eyes, and a flat or convex plastron.

Feeding and Behavior: Spots eat best in the water. They will take any form of insect except hard bodied beetles. They prefer prepared foods in captivity; they’re perfectly happy to take prepared Koi and Goldfish foods from the water’s surface, and do very well on this. They will eat worms, tadpoles, crickets, and PetsMart’s SuperWorms if thrown in the water. They have been observed to eat Wisteria plant in the abscence of regular feedings.

Housing: My turtles have been at home in warm bog settings; on moss, leaf litter and topsoil. They do well in humid environments even on AstroTurf. Over the summer, after egg laying is long past, they are moved to the swimming pool, where they swim and bask and put on weight eating koi pellets.

Lighting: If the hobbyist cannot provide natural sunlight unfiltered by glass [which removes 65% of valuable ltraviolet] then full spectrum lighting is paramount. Perhaps the best fluorescent tube at this writing is the CoralLife TriChromatic fluorescent available in a variety of lengths. Full spectrum lighting biologically activates certain vitamins in the skin (D&E) which catalyze/facilitate Calcium metabolism.

Notes: This is a protected species which is on the decline in their natural territory. Please ttry to obtain captive born specimens before accepting a wild caught one.

Hatching Geochelone Denticulata Breeding Yellow Foot Tortoises

Hatching Geochelone Denticulata (S.A. Yellowfoot Tortoise)

This is a pan-shot of the 15 gallon aquarium I modified into an incubator. A thermometer over the water bath shows 82-87 degrees. The eggs are on fluorrescent “egg crate” about two and a half inches above the water’s surface. The water bath is 90 degrees. The airspace the eggs are in is 82-87 degrees.

 The top of the incubator is a piece of insulating sheathing. I figured since it is fish safe, it is also probably tortoise safe. There are two gaps in the top which I could adjust to have more humidity, more heat, or less of either.

The filter is a simple sponge filter powered by a 600/L/Hr pump. I used this very same type of system to keep some Sulcata hatchlings warm last winter and it worked great, but the water fouls if not filtered. The heater is reliable and runs the water at 90-92 giving me a 82-88 degree airspace.

Now, here is my point of worry, and I need your advice. There’s water condensing on the sides of the airspace. This would suggest almost 100% humidity. However, the eggs (since they are inside and isothermic with the air around them) have no condensation on them at all. Given the high humidty, will they still dehydrate? No forced air is used. –> (The eggs hatched fine with the condensation on the glass)

Detail of two of the six eggs I got 9/7/98 midnight. They were laid by the female in sphagnum peat moss which was bone dry, but I found them AS THEY WERE LAID. I took them out of the nest so they would not get broken. They are very large. I rinsed them by running them under poured, distilled water. They were never submerged or sprayed under pressure.

The tops of the eggs are marked with X’s in plain pencil and they are stable and will not be turned.

Questions:

* Should I spray them daily with distilled water?
(I did)

* Do they (as with some snake eggs) need to be kept in the dark, or is lamp light okay to monitor them by?
(Mine were kept in indirect lamp light from the room)

* Will the tanks’ humidity avoid dehydration or should they be on a papertowel to hold moisture? How moist is “too moist” which causes rot?

(These eggs were on egg-crate and not on any porous surface)

* Does anyone know the true incubation period (variables notwithstanding) of the Yellowfoot tortoise?