Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Radiated Tortoise

Astrochelys radiata

The radiated tortoise is the largest of the seven species of starred tortoises. The tortoise’s name comes from its high-domed upper shell with yellow lines ‘radiating’ out from the center of the dark shell.

Range & Habitat

The radiated tortoise is native to the dry thorn forests and spiny thickets of Southern Madagascar.

Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

The radiated tortoise’s biggest threat is habitat destruction. However, they are also over-exploited by the illegal pet trade and poached for food. Listed on Appendix I of the CITES list, it is illegal to import or export the species in most cases.


In the Wild – grasses, fruit, Opuntia (prickly pear) cactus.

At the Zoo – various greens, alfalfa sprouts, fruits, vegetables, tortoise pellets.

Life Span

In the Wild – 40-70 years; In Human Care – up to 100 years.

Fun Facts about the Radiated Tortoise

  • The radiated tortoise’s shell contains a network of blood vessels and nerves – so it can feel its shell being touched or scratched.
  • Radiated tortoises typically graze repeatedly in the same area, keeping the vegetation trimmed as opposed to stripped. The radiated tortoise prefers new vegetation to old, because newer vegetation contains higher protein and lower fiber content.
  • Radiated tortoises will dig holes, or small wells, to find water and avoid dehydration.


Ernst, C.H. & R.W. Barbour.  1989.  Turtles of the World.  Smithsonian Institution Press.

Kirkpatrick, D. T. (1992). Radiated tortoise. Reptile & Amphibian Magazine, 18-24.

Phoenix Zoo, (2006). Animals: radiated tortoise. Retrieved Feb. 23, 2006, from Phx Zoo Web site:

Utah's Hogle Zoo, (n.d.). Animals: radiated tortoise. Retrieved Feb. 23, 2006, from Utah's Hogle Zoo Web site:   

Updated June 13, 2023
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