Turtles & Tortoises


Spur Thigh
Mud Turtle
Red Foot Tortoise
Alligator Snapping
Mata Mata

  The earth is home to some 260 species of turtles and tortoises, the overwhelming majority of these animals are in rapid decline.   Some of the oldest living vertebrates on our planet, the turtle family has remained largely unchanged for millions of years.

 It has only been since the rapid development of their natural range for human farming and habitation that their numbers have begun such an alarming decline.   The vast majority are long-lived and require many years to reach sexual maturity.  Having such wonderful natural protection most turtles and tortoises had a very low natural reproduction rate, this has expedited their decline in the wild. 

Many species are kept as pets as well as consumed by humans as food, in the United States we have brought the Diamondback Terrapin very close to extinction in the majority of it's range due to our taste for "Turtle Soup"

All species of turtles and tortoises lay eggs, the incubation period varies widely among species, virtually no maternal instinct exists in this family of reptiles.  Females are not known to defend or guard their nests, unlike their reptilian cousins the Alligators and Crocodiles, these ancient creatures leave the incubation up to Mother Nature!


The following are some of the turtles and tortoises who live at RainForest Adventures.


African Spur Thigh Tortoise

Range: Africa, south of the Sahara

Habitat: Savannahs, Grasslands.  Human Farming areas.

Natural Diet: Vegetarian diet, heavy in grasses.

Diet at Rain Forest: Fresh diet prepared daily of various types of greens.

Size: Females 20-25 Pounds--Males 25-60 Pounds. (record size is over 150 pounds)

Rain Forest Facts: The African Spur thigh tortoise lays a surprisingly large clutch of eggs, most tortoises lay a small number of eggs, usually 2-4, the African Spur thigh tortoise can lay as many as 20 eggs per clutch, with several clutches possible in a breeding season.  The largest main-land dwelling tortoise, the African Spur Thigh Tortoise is only eclipsed in size by the island dwelling species of the Galapagos and Aldabra Islands. 

Many types of animals utilize the burrows created by the digging of the African Spur Thigh tortoise.  This powerful animal excavates long burrows into the soil to escape the mid-day heat of the African sun.  Both vertebrates and invertebrates utilize the long burrows as shelter, the loss of such an important animal as the Spur Thigh would result in a domino effect on many other species that depend on the tortoise for shelter.

Status in Wild: Numbers are declining in majority of natural range to primarily to habitat destruction and consumption by human.

High Resolution Pictures Available



Eastern Box Turtle  

Range: South east United States

Habitat: Open fields to heavily wooded areas, frequents farming areas. 

Natural Diet: Highly omnivorous, will eat most forms of invertebrates as well as vegetation.

Diet at Rain Forest: Omnivorous diet, feeds more heavily on greens as a juvenile. 

Size: 5-7" carapace, Plastron is hinged on this turtle. Males have a tendency to be larger than females. males have a concave plastron.

Status in Wild: This once common animal is declining in all portions of it's range.  This turtle has been over collected for the pet trade as well as the victim of many automobile strikes.  Loss of habitat is playing a key roll in certain geographical areas, notably Florida etc. Living to the ripe old age of 50-60 years these animals require several years to reach sexual maturity.   Males can often be seen crossing the road in the spring and early summer months in search of a girlfriend!  It is this very wandering that The female box turtle has a surprisingly small home range, often not leaving an area of 100 square yards for years at a time.


Red Eared Slider  

Range: Eastern and Southeast United States.

Habitat: Virtually any body of fresh water, prefers slow moving streams, ponds and lakes.

Natural Diet: Fish and invertebrates

Diet at Rain Forest: Fish and invertebrates, will occasionally eat vegetation.

Size: 4-8" carapace, females tend to be larger than males

Rain Forest Facts: This ubiquitous creatures has been maintained by countless millions of children as the "dime store turtle" Released into areas the red eared slider did not naturally occur, this turtle has become introduced around the world, often to the detriment of native wildlife.   The male red eared slider will grow long fingernails on the front two arms in an effort to "tickle" the females necks for a breeding courtship ritual.

The female red eared slider will leave the safety of the water to deposit her eggs into the soft sandy soil found along the banks of many slow moving bodies of water.  The eggs require up to 75 days to hatch depending on the soil temperature.  The baby turtles face a host of natural predators including skunks, raccoons, bob cats and even fish.  Many a large mouth bass has dined on the young of this species of turtle, predatory birds such as the heron also find the young turtles appetizing.

Status in Wild: Stable in most parts of natural range, introduced to other parts of the world as escaped or unwanted pets.   Displacing some native species of turtles in China and Asia.



Diamond Back Terrapin 

Range: Coastal Eastern United States

Habitat: Marsh lands and salt marsh estuaries. 

Natural Diet: Invertebrates and fish

Diet at Rain Forest: Invertebrates and fish

Size: Females much larger than males

Rain Forest Facts: This turtle has highly variable color patterns, arguably one of the prettiest of North American turtles, the Diamondback is an egg layer.  A female Diamondback will deposit up to 8 leathery eggs into a nest excavated on the bank of the pond or stream. 

Status in Wild: Significant decline in numbers due to loss of habitat and human consumption, this is the turtle used in most "Turtle Soup"

Mud Turtle  

Range: Wide Range in United States and Mexico (some species can be found as far south as Central and Northern South America)

Habitat: Slow moving streams and rivers also found in most ponds, shares habitat with Snapping turtle

Natural Diet: Primarily Carnivorous

Diet at Rain Forest: Meat, fish and invertebrates

Rain Forest Facts: This diminutive turtle was once quite common in virtually all bodies of fresh water in the Eastern United States, loss of habitat and over collection have led to great declines in the animals numbers.  Females deposit a small number of round eggs in the late spring of the year. 

Size: 4-7" carapace 

Status in Wild: Stable in most of range


Red Footed Tortoise  

Range: South America

Habitat: Forested Regions

Natural Diet: Primarily Vegetarian, will consume protein in the form of carrion or invertebrates when available.

Diet at Rain Forest: Vegetarian mix, powdered vitamins.

Size: 12-18" Carapace

Status in Wild: Numbers are stable in parts of range while declining rapidly in areas of human encroachment.

Mata Mata

Range: South America

Habitat: Slow Moving Streams and Rivers

Natural Diet: Strictly carnivorous

Diet at Rain Forest: Fish.

Size: 12-18" Carapace, very large aquatic turtle

RainForest Facts: One of the most unusually shaped of all aquatic turtles, the Mata Mata is shaped much like fallen leaves and vegetation.  This allows the turtle the ability to hide amongst the rotting vegetation of a slow moving or stagnant bodies of water.  A sit and wait predator the Mata Mata has fooled many a fish into thinking it is nothing but a clump of rotting leaves!

Status in Wild: Numbers are stable in parts of range while declining rapidly in areas of human encroachment.

High Resolution Pictures Available





Free Coupon School Programs, Group Event, Shop RainForest, Rainforest  Animals, Smoky Mtn Links,

 RainForest Adventures, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee