ISSN 2398-2985  

Cherry head tortoise


Vetstream Ltd

Siuna Ann Reid

Synonym(s): Cherry head red-footed tortoise, Chelonoidis [Geochelone] carbonaria


Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia.
  • Phylum: Chordata.
  • Class: Reptilia.
  • Order: Testudines.
  • Suborder: Cryptodira.
  • Family: Testudinidae.
  • Genus: Chelonoidis.
  • Species: carbonarius.

Distribution and habitat

  • Native to Brazil; often found along rivers and the edges of forests.
  • These tortoises need a humid environment like they would in the tropics where they come from in the wild.
  • Can be found in exotic jungles around Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
  • They can also be found in Trinidad, Barbados and Panama.

Species status

  • They are quickly increasing in numbes due to their popular demand in the pet trade.

Life span

  • In captivity they can live 50+ years.


  • In the wild, they are omnivores and eat a wider range of foods than many other species of tortoise Chelonia nutrition.
  • They should be offered plentiful amounts of vegitation consisting of fresh dark, leafy greens, such as dandelion greens and mustard greens. They also need to be offered vegetales and small amounts of fruit.
  • Unlike most tortoises, the Cherry head requires animal protein, however it is important not to over feed them with protein, and one small serving of lean meant every two weeks is enough.
  • It is also advisable to dust their food with a good qualit alcium and vitamin D3 supplements on the food, however ensure you follow the manufacturers instructions.
  • Additionally, a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement should be used a few times a week on the food.


As pets

  • Captive bred Cherry heads are available; wild caught tortoises should never be purchased.
  • These species aren't particularly suitable as pets, especially for children, as they can become stressed from over-handling.
  • Housing:
    • Outdoors:
      • This should be of a solid construction and at least 40 cm/16 in high to avoid escape. It should also be at least 5-7.5 cm/2-3 in secure under the ground in case the tortoise tries to dig its way out.
      • The housing should be fitted with a reptile humidifier.
      • The tortoise should always be provided with warm water to submerge and bathe in as well as a shallow bowl of clean drinking water.
      • Netting or wire can be added to the top of the enclosure to reduce the threat of predators.
    • Indoors:
      • Cypress bark can be used as a substrate to retain humidity.
      • Other necessary features of an indoor enclosure include a UVA/UVB light, a suitable reptile heat lamp.
      • The enclosure should be heated at night to around 18-21°C/64.5-70°F.
      • The day time temperature should be at least 32-35°C/90-95°F.
      • The tortoise should always be provided with warm water to submerge and bathe in as well as a shallow bowl of clean drinking water.

Biological Data

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Uetz P & Hošek J (2018) The Reptile Database (version Dec 2015). In: Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life, 31st May. Eds: Roskov Y et al. Website: Species 2000: Naturalis, Leiden, The Netherlands. ISSN: 2405-8858.
  • The spruce (2017) Cherry Head Red-Footed Tortoise. Website: Last accessed 29th January 2018.
  • Pet Guide (2013) Cherry Head Red Foot Tortoise. Website: Last accessed 29th January 2018.
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Geochelone carbonaria. Website: Last accessed 15th June 2018.

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