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True giant yellow foot tortoises

Discussion in 'Redfoot and yellowfoot tortoises' started by JTExotics, Jan 17, 2019.

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  1. JTExotics

    JTExotics Member

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    https://www.stlzoo.org/files/2313/0798/4322/yellow_foot_tortoise.jpg

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-kKLYtr2tV...EoujFfg/s1600/Giant+Yellowfoot+Tortoise+2.jpg

    http://thereptilereport.com/personalities-russ-gurley/

    https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/some-zoo-photos-of-a-true-giant-yellow-foot-tortoise.59685/

    https://www.stlzoo.org/files/5713/0798/4291/tourDeTortoise.jpg

    http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c345/xgrafcorex/zoo aquarium etc/st louis zoo/IMG_4673s.jpg

    https://i.pinimg.com/236x/ec/b7/b6/ecb7b6e70acade8a300028d6c539728b--zoo-animals-zoos.jpg





    (In some of these pictures, it’s difficult to tell the yellow foots apart from the Aldabras!)

    Here are some pictures of true giant yellow foots, not those 16-18” ones that you regularly see being labeled as “giants”. I recently just read (Chelonian Library #3, South American tortoises) that the record holder for the largest yellow foot IS the big female from the Saint Louis Zoo! She measures 37” straight carapace length and weighs exactly 200 pounds—bigger than any tortoises (that I know of) of the two smallest species from the Galapagos! (As far as I know, neither Chelonoidis hoodensis or C. duncanensis naturally exceed 185-190lbs for larger individuals). The male yellow foot at the Saint Louis zoo is also very large; he measures 32 inches SCL ands weighs 154 pounds. Both of them apparently have very calm temperaments from years of being around people. I had also heard that Zoo Miami used to have a group of giants that were in the 28” (SCL) range, but unfortunately I could not find any images of them online. I hope to visit the Saint Louis zoo eventually and get more pictures (and hopefully videos) of their giants.
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  2. JTExotics

    JTExotics Member

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  3. Relic

    Relic Well-Known Member

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    Without any history of origin, are there any characteristic traits observable in juvenile specimens that would indicate if they are, or are not, of the giant lineage?
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  4. Kapidolo Farms

    Kapidolo Farms Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    I've mentioned this on TFO before, but again now. . . .
    While I worked at the Philly Zoo a guy (Andy Tragesser, not sure on the name) did a presentation about his interest to promote a zoo in Peru, his NGO was called Zoo Peru, and he was appealing to the Philly Zoo for support with a slide show. In that show were a few images of a Tapir exhibit that also had yellowfoots, all were huge, they were big compared to the Tapirs in the same image. No exact measurements were given, that's not what the show was about. I asked him about the tortoises, and said I could seek our reptile department to import some. He replied they had all been consumed during lent, because as everyone knows tortoises are fish. The zoo that the images were taken is in Lima, and Andy thought they all came from the Peru part of the amazon basin. Later I spoke the PCHP about this and he recalled seeing large tellowfoots at the same zoo, and thought they had a similar fate. So that gives some idea of locality.

    Great thread @JTExotics
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  5. cdmay

    cdmay Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    LOL, the Pope is a taxonomists.
    Anyway, a lot of us have old stories about giant yellow-footed tortoises. The Crandon Park Zoo in Miami had a number of genuinely enormous denticulata up until the late 70s.
    When that zoo closed down those tortoises went to the newly opened Metro-Zoo (now Zoo Miami) and were housed along with the Galápagos tortoises. The big yellow-foots were just as large as some of the Galaps, but were more narrow lengthwise and had more of a flat top. Also, they had larger scales on their front legs. As they were perpetually dirty you didn’t see a lot of color on them. Eventually they went away although I have no idea where they went.
    Pretty sure that I have some old photos around here somewhere...

    Also, D i c k Bartlett used to have a big pair of Peruvian denticulata that raised from juveniles and that were some 30+ years old when I first started visiting him around 1983. They were big, but not giants by any stretch.
    PCHP mentioned by Will above, claimed that so called ‘giant’ denticulata could occur in any given population. But I’ve always heard anecdotally that Peru seems to be the place were giants occur more commonly.
  6. JTExotics

    JTExotics Member

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    I have heard that about the Peruvian yellow foots, and I’ve heard (I don’t know for sure) that the giants at the Saint Louis zoo came from Peru as well.
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  7. cdmay

    cdmay Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    JTExotics....that second link (blogspot) you posted shows a big yellow-foot that is very reminiscent of the Crandon Park Zoo denticulata. Same massive tortoise... but with a ridiculously small head!

    Like you, I find some of the animals offered for sale these days as ‘true giants’ to be laughably short of anything out of the ordinary.
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  8. Turtulas-Len

    Turtulas-Len Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Here are some pics of male that measured 28 inches. I picked him up from Chase in Miami Fl in 1971 or 72, (can't remember the exact year) 1973.jpg ron and sharon 1.jpg yellowfoot.jpg Untitled-4.jpg
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  9. cdmay

    cdmay Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    Ahhh! How cool!
    My Uncle Monte worked for Eastern Airlines Air Cargo in Miami from the 50s to the 70s.
    Uncle Monte had all kinds of stories about Mr. Chase and the animals Eastern Air Cargo would ship and receive for him. He had worked at Chases place when he was young and so he was the guy Eastern would have handle all of Mr. Chase’s critter shipments.
    Now THAT is a big yellow-foot tortoise.
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  10. JTExotics

    JTExotics Member

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    Exactly. It’s ridiculous to see normal-sized (16”-19”) individuals to being labeled as giants! True giants rival Sudanese sulcatas, Aldabras, and Galaps in size.
  11. JTExotics

    JTExotics Member

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    Wow! That’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen in captivity outside of a zoo. Apparently large individuals used to be imported somewhat often back then, but now these true giants are nowhere to be seen in the pet trade. One question; do you still have that tortoise?
  12. Madkins007

    Madkins007 Well-Known Member Moderator 10 Year Member!

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    Last time I researched this, there was a lot of disagreement on what caused giant yellowfoots- genetic fluke, specific populations, or just plain old age.

    My gut thought is that is sheer age, and that it takes a LONG time to get that big. I suspect that they are getting less common in captivity or photos just because we've found all the easy to find individuals and either the others are fewer, or shyer.

    Has there been anything new on that front?
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  13. JTExotics

    JTExotics Member

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    There hasn’t been anything new in this front (as far as I know), but these are my thoughts on it:

    “Amazon basin giant yellow foots” aren’t very different from “normal” yellow foots, they may get a little larger, but be warned that they aren’t guaranteed to become true giants. The true giants, for the most part, do seem occur randomly, unlike leopard and sulcata tortoises, which have larger geographic variants (Sudan sulcatas, Giant Somali Leopards). It does seem that larger individuals are found more often in Peru, but this may just be a coincidence. Age doesn’t seem to be completely responsible, as some “normal” sized yellow foots have worn down shells, showing that their significant growth stopped years ago. The giants seem to just randomly occur, but one thing I have noticed is that I’ve never seen any captive individuals that grew up to be giants. It must be a combination of certain factors; genetics, available food, predation, etc. I have also noticed that individuals between “normal” size and “giant” seem to be the rarest.
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  14. cdmay

    cdmay Well-Known Member 10 Year Member!

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    Yeah, those are my feelings as well.

    Here is something else to ponder about this subject, much of what we are basing our knowledge on is from what we see in the pet trade. The pet trade is misleading...here’s why: first, importers are often dishonest about where the animals they have are actually from. Or, they themselves have been mislead by the people they obtained the animals from. In addition, the point of export in South America might just be the location were the animals were amassed before being shipped to the US (or Europe and Asia) and those animals might have come from fairly distant places.
    That was the very situation with the first major group of the so called cherryhead red-footed tortoises in the early 80s.
    Second, importers here in the United States used to not want extra large individual specimens of any tortoise and instead preferred smaller animals. Simple economics—the smaller the tortoises, the more you have to sell for the cost of shipping. Importing larger individuals meant you were paying heavy shipping costs for fewer animals, and back in the day the really big tortoises were harder to sell. So this means there has been a certain bias on what we see represented from South America. In general this goes for all the other species of tortoise too.

    One other thing...we started with a discussion of ‘giant’ yellow-foot tortoises. Of equal interest to me are the very small, but obviously old tortoises that one would see in a large group of imports. In the 70s and 80s my girlfriend (then wife) would be regulars at all of the animal importers in Miami. It was nothing to see anywhere from 100 to 500 individual red-foots and yellow-foots from Guyana, Suriname or elsewhere segregated into their own groups. Once we wandered through an outdoor enclosure that had over 500 adult Bolivian red-foots. Um, at $40.00 each...
    Anyway you would see various traits about these groups that were distinct...color, shell shape, size and so on. In every large group (of any kind of tortoise) there would be the outliers in size. What intrigued me were the ‘little old ladies’ that would be in each large group. These were as I mentioned, much smaller than the average adult, but clearly NOT simply juveniles or younger tortoises. These were obviously older ‘runts’, or whatever. They represented the opposite end of the size spectrum from the giants.
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  15. JTExotics

    JTExotics Member

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    That’s another problem in figuring out the true factors that influence these “giant” and the “dwarf” tortoises. Many breeders and importers will tell you what you want to hear so they can sell them. The fact that there are so many places along the tortoise’s journey from the wild to captivity that there true origin can be lied about is a massive problem, and the only way to be absolutely sure of the origin of any tortoise would be to be present when they are removed form the wild. The only real way to figure out a tortoise’s origin (when you no longer are sure of it) would be something like genetic testing.
  16. Robber

    Robber Active Member 5 Year Member

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    I live half an hour from the StL zoo, but I swear the YFs are inevitably all the way in the back of the very large enclosure when I'm there, so it is hard to see them. Very impressive even from a distance, though.
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  17. Madkins007

    Madkins007 Well-Known Member Moderator 10 Year Member!

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    I wonder... ligers get really big because the gene that controls size is at a different location on the lion and tiger DNA. I wonder if this is what happens if red and yellow foots cross in nature? I know there is not a lot of evidence of this, but what if almost all external characteristics are yellow-footed? Just a wild thought.

    Are those 'little old ladies' the source of the famous 'dwarf redfoot' label? A TRUE dwarf redfoot (6" at adulthood) would be a great indoor pet in most of Europe and America. That sort of genetic tweaking is one I could get behind (unlike just dumb color variants).
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