Sea Turtles of the Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are home to three species of sea turtles, including green, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles. These turtle species frequent our local waters year-round and are often seen foraging on coral reefs and sea grass beds, breathing and basking at the water’s surface, or nesting on local beaches. All species of turtle are protected on local, federal, and international levels from human interactions, poaching and habitat destruction.
The red-footed tortoise is a native of South America. It is hunted there as food. This and habitat loss are the greatest threats to this species. It is also collected for the pet industry.
It is believed that the Carib Indians brought them to the Virgin Islands several hundred years ago as a food source. They are great animals to take on your canoe because they can do without daily food and water.
Although red-foots are commonly found in relatively dry grassland and forest areas, this species is also found in humid forest habitat.
Red-footed tortoises are a medium sized species. Red-foot males are larger than females in carapace length and weight, but are not wider or taller (Moskovits, 1988). To tell the difference between male and female tortoises, look at the underside of the shell or plastron. It is concave in males and flat on a female. That is true for all tortoise species. This particular species has a waist. Males have a deeper waist than females. They are mainly vegetarians but do consume some animal protein in the wild. Their diet consists of weeds, grasses, fruits, insects and worms in nature but they do well in captivity on tortoise chow, greens, veggies, a little fruit and earth worms
Tortoises in the Coral World terrarium vary in age from a few months to about 10 years. The female tortoise digs a hole and buries the eggs under the ground. We have observed from two to four eggs to a nest. It can take up to nine months for the eggs to hatch.