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Radiant Sokake Stars

Hello everyone! Today I wanted to share some fun facts about one of my favorite tortoise species found right here in Zoo Atlanta! It is called the Radiated Tortoise, also known as the Sokake in their native Madagascar. Are you ready? Here we go! 

Radiated tortoises are native to the extreme south and southwestern parts of Madagascar, and tend to stay in the brush, spiny forests, and woodland areas in the region. This is where they find all their favorite foods! Radiated tortoises are herbivores. Grazing makes up 80%-90% of their diet. They eat grasses, flowers, occasional fruits, and succulent plants such as opuntia cactus, which grows rampantly all over their home territory.  

These beautiful high-domed animals get their name from their vibrant shell patterns. Each scute on their shell is dark with pale yellow lines that radiate from the center- hence the name radiated tortoise. This pattern isn’t just for looks either! The unique patterns on the shell help them blend into their environment, giving them a leg up against some predators.  Since they spend each day grazing, they’ve developed strong elephantine feet and can run surprisingly fast (for a tortoise) if they are frightened. Most individuals can reach 16 inches in length, and some can even weigh over 30 pounds! It is believed that radiated tortoises can live around 100 years in their lifetime. I’m sure if they could talk, they would have amazing stories to share about their life! 

Did you know their shells are supplied with blood vessels and nerves so they can feel very well through their shell? This is not exclusive to only radiated tortoises. All tortoises have this amazing range of feeling and sensitivity in their shells. 

Unfortunately, radiated tortoises are considered critically endangered. They continue to lose much of their territory due to mining and deforestation. Tens of thousands of these precious creatures are also smuggled away from their homes each year to be sold illegally in the pet trade or hunted for meat. Many organizations have begun working together to help support and protect these gentle creatures. Their numbers still continue to decline, but with the help and support of conservation organizations, including zoos like Zoo Atlanta, there may be hope yet for this beautiful reptile!  

Sam J.
Keeper III, Herpetology

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl