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Radiated Tortoise

The critically endangered Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys Radiata) is considered to be one of the most sought after tortoise in the world. Human consumption and the "pet trade" has taking a large number of these tortoises from the wild. In the Radiated Tortoise's native range of Madagascar, they are mostly located in the Southern region but are still found sporadically throughout the entire Island. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has labeled this species as Appendix I and has stopped the legal export/import of this species. Since this law has been put into place it has slowly helped wild populations from the legal international pet trade, but human consumption is still a major concern in Madagascar. Radiata still show up on the "black market" pet trade in Southeast Asia as well. Captive Bred populations are currently doing extremely  well in the United States. The sale and trade is allowed within the US market if a Captive Bred Wildlife Permit is obtained. (There is a clause that permits the ownership and sale within a state without a permit). If shipping or receiving across state lines, again a Captive Bred Wildlife Permit is needed to be obtained from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The captive breeding of the Radiated Tortoise is tracked by The North American Studbook. With continued efforts Astrochelys Radiata populations will continue to thrive in both the wild and captive environments.

From hatchling to adult, this high domed shelled tortoise is very much a gem that impresses tortoise keepers from start to finish. The Radiated Tortoise care is simple but like any living creature, attention to detail in needed for a happy healthy animal. As hatchlings, these tortoises need a little more attention then adults. To ensure proper hydration, soaking hatchlings is important to do every other day or few days. Being so small and being housed in warm temperatures they can easily get dehydrated. "Soaking" is done by filling a shallow dish with lukewarm water and placing the tortoise in the dish. The water level should be high enough to come to the bottom of the tortoises head. Along with the tortoise drinking, there skin and shell is able to absorb moisture. Most tortoises reserve their water resources until they find another source. So in turn the tortoise will " go to the bathroom" during the soak. This will cause them to be hungry again and start eating afterwards. Radiateds like other species of tortoises are "creature of habit", meaning they will setup a daily routine of basking, eating, drinking and exploring. By monitoring or watching this routine tortoise keepers should be able to tell when a health problem arises. Proper hydration is also a key factor in smooth shell growth along with proper diet, exercise and UV rays. A great way to provide proper diet for the Radiated Tortoises is to try to offer or plant native species of Flora for them to graze on. Naturally the Radiata's diet consists of tail grasses, succulents, forbes, Opuntia cactus, and other greens and fruits. This diet can be easily mimicked in captive environments. Some " other " greens that are an excellent option is Romain, Endive, Collard, Leaf, and many others. Offering commercial foods such as Mazuri Tortoise Diet and fruits sparingly is a great way to make sure your tortoise is getting a varied diet. Cuttle Bones should always be present in the enclosure and supplemental calcium powder is a good idea to occasionally sprinkle onto the greens. With time captive Radiateds will associate the tortoise keeper with food, so in turn when its feeding time they will approach you with anticipation  of getting a treat. Also in captive environments many Radiated Tortoise keepers comment on how fast this species grows. On the average they will add 1 1/2 - 2 inches a year of new growth. Reaching 16 inches as adults and being "high domed" , Radiated Tortoises are a hard tortoise to be over looked. Each tortoise has its own individual personality that is amazing to watch and be able to interact with. One attribute that has been observed in Radiated Tortoises is them backing up to trees or objects and rocking back and forth to scratch themselves. Tortoises are very much able to feel contact through their shells and love the occasionally neck rub.

Radiated Tortoises are one of the hardest species of tortoise to visibly sex. When Radiata's approuch 11-12 inches in shell length, this is when the species is large enough to accurately sex. Also around this size is when they reach sexual maturity. All the common sexing traits such as tail length, gular scutes , anal scutes , plastron shape and anal openings are able to help determine the sex, but again these traits could change a little until they are 12 inches making it frustrating to many Radiated Tortoise keepers. On average female Radiateds will be able start reproducing between 12-14 inches but there have been documented laying as small as 11 inches. Radiateds do not hibernate, so females are able to produce year round depending on the captive environment they are housed in. Egg production in Radiated Tortoises increase when they are more mature and reach 15-20 years of age. Another trait of Radiated tortoises that can be frustrating to tortoise keepers is, females are able to and do produce a few clutches at the start of maturity but slow or stop egg production for a while until they are a few years older. Typical clutch sizes from female Radiata range from 3 - 6 eggs. In their natural environment, Radiata eggs go through a "diapause period" Diapause in simply terms means the eggs need to go through a period of "cool down" before they are able to "warm up" and start development. From start to finish on average from laying it takes 120 days to hatch with the first 30 days being chilled at 60-66 degrees then incubated at 86 degrees for the rest of the duration. After the periods of laying to chilling to heating, a good half day to full day is suggested to leave the eggs at room temperature to help temper between transitions. Burying the eggs into the substrate before incubation helps keep humidity and temperature levels constant. Humidity is crucial during the incubation process and even more important the weeks before and during hatching out. 50% humidity during incubation is suggested and increased to 75% by the time of hatching out. The newest arrival will be similar to the dam and sir that produced it, but it is very much its own precious  gem.

Information for obtaining a Captive Bred WildLife Permit

The process for getting a Captive Bred Wildlife Permit through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service can be a little scary at first but is very easy once you get started. Simply follow the link provided, fill out the application and send it in with photos of the intended enclosure for the tortoise. A fee of $200 will need to be sent along with the rest of the appliction. The permit is good for 5 years and annual updating is needed.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife:
http://www.fws.gov/forms/3-200-41.pdf