May 15, 2017
Shell of a Good Time
- as seen by -Alexandra Greco
Red-footed tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonaria) can be found throughout Central and South America. It is unclear whether their presence on the Caribbean islands of Barbados and Trinidad is due to human introduction in the 17th century. Their natural habitat ranges from savanna to forest edges. This species is distinguished by its dark-colored, loaf-shaped carapace with lighter patches in the middle of each scute. They have dark limbs covered in scales that range in color from yellow to red.
Even though they are not an endangered species, CITES lists red-footed tortoises under Appendix II, meaning they are vulnerable to extinction if population numbers aren’t monitored. The biggest threats to the survival of these tortoises are habitat destruction and overhunting by humans. Adult tortoises are considered delicacies in South America, and tortoise eggs are a major source of protein in underdeveloped areas. Increasing demands by the illegal pet trade have significantly lowered their numbers.
Red-footed tortoises are hidden gems at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Prospect Park Zoo. Their ability to rest in the same position for long periods of time hides them among the rock work, but an occasional stretch of a back leg, or a slow, but steady walk lets visitors see the tortoise before them.
Join us at Prospect Park Zoo for World Turtle Day on May 23, 2017 to celebrate turtles and tortoises and to promote human action to help them survive and thrive. Learn about the turtles and tortoises through our turtle-themed activities and keeper chats.
It will be a shell of a good time!