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The Radiated tortoise is a forest and savanna dwelling species found on the island of Madagascar, primarily on the west and east southern regions of the Island. The unique and diverse geographical anomaly of Madagascar plays a very different role in the common grassland, or forest. The forests inhabited by the Radiated are very dry and sandy soiled, full of thorny trees, and plush with succulents. The southern region of the island can get very warm. The temperature in the winter months only fluctuates to 10-18 degrees less than the summer months. During the winter there is a "wet" season that has little rainfall, but stimulates the nesting seasons for the Radiated tortoise.
Radiated Tortoises grow to around 14-17" in length, 35-50 pounds. Males first mate upon attaining lengths of about 12 in; females may need to be a few inches longer. Incubation is quite long in this species, lasting usually between five and eight months. Juveniles are between 1.25 and 1.6 inches upon hatching. Unlike the yellow coloration of the adults, the juveniles are a white to an off-white shade. Juveniles attain the high-domed carapace soon after hatching.
These tortoises are critically endangered due to habitat loss, being poached for food, and being over exploited in the pet trade. It is listed on CITES Appendix I, commercial trade in wild-caught specimens is illegal (permitted only in exceptional licensed circumstances). However, due to the poor economic conditions of Madagascar, many of the laws are largely ignored.
Still extremely rare and endangered. The native peoples of Madagascar eat these beautiful creatures. In order to improve soil fertility, the Madagascar native people burn crops, inadvertently killing 100’s to 1000’s of eggs causing a huge decline in Radiated population numbers.
The carapace of the radiated tortoise is brilliantly marked with yellow lines radiating from the center of each dark plate of the shell, hence its name. This "star" pattern is more finely detailed and intricate than the normal pattern of other star-patterned tortoise species, such as G. elegans of India. The radiated tortoise is also larger than G. elegans, and the scutes of the carapace are smooth, and not raised up into a bumpy, pyramidal shape as is commonly seen in the latter species. There is slight sexual dimorphism. Compared to females, male radiated tortoises usually have longer tails and the notches beneath their tails are more noticeable.
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