HOME OF THE FIRST CAPTIVE-BRED RADIATED TORTOISES IN THE PHILIPPINES*Our goal is to continue our breeding projects and to promote legal captive breeding in the Philippines
The Radiated tortoise of Madagascar is one of the most attractive and most sought-after species of all tortoises. They are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN and listed on CITES Appendix I, mainly because of the destruction of their habitat and poaching. They can grow up to 16 inches in length and weigh up to 35 pounds. They are a very long-lived species with recorded lifespans of at least 188 years.
Our Radiated tortoise breeders, Soda and Cola and their first 2 hatchlings, Cali and Pepp with their eggs
Pictured below are photos of our male Radiated tortoise, "Soda". We've had him since he was only 4 inches. Now he's around 14 inches and more than 8 kilos. Of all the tortoises I've kept since 1999, Soda is the friendliest. He occassionally approaches his owners just to be petted. He will stand up high and stretch his head all the way out while being scratched. Nothing makes a tortoise owner happier than a tortoise that is healthy, friendly and active!
Below is our adult female Radiated tortoise, "Cola". She is a big girl measuring about 14 inches in length and weighing around 8.5 kilos. Despite her massive size, she is very gentle even with smaller juvenile tortoises. My vet described her as an old soul trapped in a tortoise's body. It was a perfect description!
Cola laying 3 eggs back in 2014. She's been laying 3-6 eggs every 2-4 months ever since.
Our Radiata adults only started to breed in 2013 despite being housed together for several years. When Cola laid her first clutch of eggs in December 2014, we were all thrilled! It was amazing how her instinct took over and she knew exactly what to do. The entire process of digging and laying took her about 4 hours then. Now she has improved this to about 3 hours. The nests are around 7 inches deep and has a narrow opening and a wide base. After popping out an egg, she moves them aside before laying the next one. She is an expert! Unfortunately, the eggs never seemed to hatch. Not until December 29, 2016 when we finally hatched our first! And so this brings us to the next section.
14 Years in the Making!
After working with this species since 2002, hard work and perseverance finally paid off! This is possibly the first captive bred Radiated tortoise in the Philippines, or at least the first one fully documented online.
Congrats to Soda and Cola! 3 years of mating and laying finally bore fruit. I was convinced that Soda is infertile. I am glad to be proven wrong! Sorry, Soda!
Congrats to the entire SODATORT team!
- Dennis, owner and overall lead
- Lourdes my mom and staff, operations
- Jenny my gf, social media and moral support
- All those who became part of Soda's journey
*Also posted on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube
I saw this in the morning of December 29, 2016. It was unexpected because I already concluded that all of the Radiata eggs are infertile. I just opened the incubator to check for Star tortoise eggs and I saw this!
Its yolk sac was almost fully absorbed
With our first ever Radiata hatchling! Hoping for more baby Radiated tortoises this year and beyond
Click below for a video of the hatchling's first steps:
I checked the incubator today and saw this one already out of its egg! Judging from its yolk sac, it probably hatched 2-3 days ago. Most times, I check daily. But when I don't, that's when they hatch!
Our first and second hatchlings. Nearly 3 weeks apart.
The Indian Star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is a beautiful tortoise native to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They were named for their star like patterns on their shells which varies by their three geographical variants or morphs: southern India, Sri Lanka, and northern India and Pakistan. This star pattern is actually a very efficient means of camouflage in their native environment.
Other species of tortoises that exhibit a star-like, radiating pattern are Burmese Star (Geochelone platynota), Radiated (Astrochelys radiata), Spider (Pyxis arachnoides), Flat-backed Spider (Pyxis planicauda), Pancake (Malacochersus tornieri), Geometric (Psammobates geometricus) and Tent tortoises (Psammobates tentorius).
On April 16, 2006, we produced our very first and only IST hatchling. We named him Cracker. This was a very special moment with a lot of firsts. Bashful, our very first tortoise laid her first clutch of eggs which produced our first ever captive-bred tortoise!
Unfortunately, we stopped breeding in 2007 when I left the country to work abroad. We had to prioritize on our top species and we had to part ways with our IST breeders. But this breeding initiative will continue in 2015, which leads us to the next section.
We are once again breeding the Indian Star tortoise
Star tortoises, also known as Geochelone elegans are once again growing in popularity. They were our first tortoises back in 1999 and we were able to produce only one hatchling in 2006 before I worked abroad. The IST breeding project stopped in 2007. Now, we've also made it our goal to breed this beautiful species again. Star tortoises will always be one of our favorite tortoise species!
Pictured above is Cola beside one of my female Star tortoises. Both of them are already egg-laying adults. Notice the size difference between the two. Indian Stars usually reach an adult size of about 7 to 10 inches for females and around 5-6 inches for males. Radiated tortoises may reach up to 14 to 16 inches.
Here you can see the eggs are chalking, which are the white spots on top part of the eggs. The egg at the upper right of the photo is not chalking and this usually means the egg is not fertile.
Veins can be seen when doing the process called candling. It's basically just putting a small flashlight or LED penlight on the surface of the egg in a dark room. By doing so, you'll be able to see veins forming inside the egg if the eggs are fertile.
After 145 Days
The first egg took 4 months and 23 days since our female IST breeder laid 4 eggs. It may sound like a long wait for some. But it is always exciting for me to watch tortoise eggs hatch! Definitely worth the wait!
Indian Star tortoise egg has started pipping, which is when they get their nose out of the egg shell. They use their "egg tooth" just right below their nose to pierce through the egg.
From Chalking to Hatching
This batch is a perfect example of tortoise egg development because it showed all the signs of a fertile egg; from chalking, to seeing veins when candling, and eventually hatching. As expected, all three eggs that chalked are fertile and the one that did not eventually went bad and started to smell after around 3 months.
This third one is even more special because 1 month prior to hatching, I noticed that the egg had already cracked and leaked. I had to seal it up but I wasn't sure if it would survive. I am so thankful that it did!
Three little Indian Star tortoise hatchlings
Soda's Tortoise Garden is on Facebook! Please like our page to get live updates on our breeding projects! Feel free to drop by and say hello
The African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata), also called the Sulcata tortoise, is a species of tortoise which inhabits the southern edge of the Sahara desert in northern Africa. They are probably the most commonly kept pet tortoises in the country. They can grow from cute 2-inch hatchlings to humongous 33-inch adults which make them the the 3rd largest species of tortoises in the world, next to Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises.
This is our adult male Sulcata tortoise which we named Mocha. We got him in 2007 along with three 2.5-inch baby Sulcatas, all with CBCs (Captive Bred Certificate).
Mocha started out the smallest but had the smoothest shell growth. After a year, he outgrew all other Sulcatas and still maintained his unpyramided shell which is difficult to achieve in Sulcatas kept in captivity. It's strange because all his housemates had slightly bumpy shells even if they had the same diet, environment, routine, etc.
In collaboration with a fellow CWR permit holder, we will soon be able to breed Sulcata tortoises as well!
She had a white forehead, unlike most Radiatas. Thus the name, Whitey. We had her from November 2002 to March 2009. I got her when I was still a student taking my undergrad degree. We had a lot of challenges together but we made it through. She was already 13 inches and ready to breed soon. She was a good pet and was used to having people around. Everytime I walked to her enclosure, she would approach me and make eye-contact. She loved to be petted and scratched on the head.
This is the last photo that I took of Whitey
When she died, I thought my hopes of breeding this species died with her. But with the help and encouragement of family and friends, our passion to breed this wonderful species only grew stronger. Right now, I know that she is looking down on us from pet heaven and is proud of what we've accomplished...
There are a lot of articles about tortoises in the internet but there's not a lot about tortoise care in the Philippines. Though turtles and tortoises are not very popular in the Philippines, the hobby has actually been picking up the past several years. There are also more Philippine forums and groups via Facebook these days so it's easier to exchange information now.
To those who are just starting, I came up with a quick list of FAQ's with a lot of photos. The answers are more directed to Philippine tortoise hobbyists. I hope it helps.
I first created this site on March 2009 using webs.com, a free website builder. As my interest in making websites grew, I started to study Dreamweaver, make my own website, purchase a domain, and sign up for my own web hosting provider. It was a perfect channel for me to share pictures of my tortoises that I have all mixed up in my hard disk since 1999. With this website, I can give an overview of myself and my tortoises, and share photos, videos, stories, information and experiences to my fellow tortoise hobbyists
With our Radiated tortoise breeders
This hobby started when I bought one Indian Star tortoise on December of 1999 from a petshop near our place. By the end of January 2000, I had a total of 7 ISTs. I was then just starting my Engineering degree and had only little resources. But I was determined to have more tortoises and so I saved up as much as I could. After selling some of my old collections, the Stars were soon followed by Elongatas and Sulcatas. As soon as I passed my ECE board exams and got a job, I took my hobby up a notch by getting Redfoots and Leopards, Radiateds and more!
I was not always successful with all of them and deaths do occur, sadly. But most tortoises made it through and they've been with us for several years now! I also tried to keep other reptiles like snakes and lizards but I always went back to focus on tortoises.
I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. I worked abroad from 2007-2011 after working in Manila from 2005-2007. I then moved to the US from 2011-2013 to take my master's in Business and Technology Management. During these times that I was away, we only prioritized on a few tortoises from our top 3 species. I had to lock down on a strict tortoise routine built around a solid set-up and teach our family members and household staff thoroughly. Though I try to come home as often as possible, I do have to give credit to my mother and our great staff for taking great care of our tortoises! I've been back here in the Philippines since 2013 and the hobby has picked up a lot since then.
By the way, my other hobbies include playing badminton and tennis. Currently, I play in Power & Speed in Mindanao Avenue, Quezon City. If there are hobbysits out there who also play, feel free to message me on our Facebook page.
We also love to travel so please check out turtle and tortoise pictures that we take when when we're out traveling by clicking HERE.
Jenny and me with our adult tortoises, Soda, Cola, and Mocha
Holding a Radiata hatchling, pictured with our Radiata breeders
Mocha's growth over the years
Back in 1999 with my first two tortoises. I was wearing a traditional formal wear called Barong Tagalog.
*NOTE 1: "First captive-bred Radiated tortoises in the Philippines", though unofficial is based on the following: 1) 18 years of local research from 1999 to 2017, 2) online multimedia evidence available in forums, webpages and social media, 3) feedback from the local community of tortoise/reptile hobbyists, and 4) is uncontested so far.
*NOTE 2: All tortoises are part of my DENR-CWR headcount which I first got during the amnesty for exotic pets several years ago. This list gets updated everytime tortoises are bred from the original registered animals, and also when new specimens are legally obtained from DENR CWR, WFP and WCP holders. Great efforts are being done to breed them and contribute to the conservation of critically endangered tortoise species.