"The Redfoot Manual" by Mike Pingleton

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Feb 15, 2008
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"The Redfoot Manual, A Beginner's Guide to the Redfoot Tortoise" by Mike Pingleton. Art Gecko Publishing, 2009. 158 pages with color photos, charts, and a map. Table of contents, 15 chapters in 4 sections, 3 appendi, a glossary, references and resources, and an index. $26 from the author (www.pingleton.com) or from Amazon.

Section 1 starts with a quick overview of the needs of the Redfoot Tortoise, and introduces you to this wonderful animal. I wish everyone interested in buying one could read the first chapter. It would save a lot of heartache and sick tortoises.

Then he covers natural history enough to give you a good flavor for what they are like in the wild, followed by whether a Redfoot is the right pet for you and tips for choosing a good one. The information in these sections is solid. The 'choosing' section goes into a nice amount of depth. The new keeper should have no problem getting a good pet following the guidelines.

Section 2 covers indoor and outdoor housing. I think he mentions every idea I have ever heard about at one point or another. He has an idea for smaller torts of taking two mortar pans and attaching one on top of the other, then cutting away a large opening. I think I am going to try this for my little guys!

Section 3 is all about the environment. Mike deftly handles the big questions about humidity, lighting, and UVB in polite and reasonable tones. In this book, UVB is neither a magic solution for everything, nor dismissed. This section has a lot of options and good advice.

Section 4 is the one on diet, health, and breeding. Mike follows a common-sensical approach backed up by experience and research. I appreciate his advice to stop worrying over every detail and basically offer a varied, wholesome diet built on a pyramid of lots of leafy greens (supplemented with calcium for insurance), then quite a bit of hay, flowers, and other plants and vegetables. Next, a smaller amount of fruit, topped with a little meat. This is typical of a lot of the advice coming out since about 2000.

The health section and breeding section are also helpful and well written. It is always hard to format or organize a medical section, but Mike's is nicely functional and complete.

After the main section, he has a one page 'suitable for posting on the fridge' 'cheat sheet' on Redfoot care, followed by appendi such as info on the Yellowfoot, natural history notes such as what field research has been done, and a nice section on nutritional elements like calcium and oxalic acid.

The book ends with some great lists of websites, books, and so on. He also slipped in a couple growth charts that might have made a nice appendix along with a sample record sheet or something. Earlier in the book, he offers "Dr. Donahue's Formula" for predicting weight. A 'growth rate' appendix would have been a good place to repeat this info as well.

I enjoyed the book a lot. I asked for it for Father's Day and could not be happier. I was afraid that Vinke's "South American Tortoises" book would have spoiled me, but the two books work nicely together. Mike's has a lot more of the 'how to' stuff while Vinke has more of the 'why to'.

Even with all of the research I do on my herd, I was surprised to see things that I had not read or heard of before. The mortar tub idea is one example. Others included...
- the mention of Jacobsen's organ
- the use and reuse of disposable plastic plates
- the implications of the eye structure and UV/IR
- and more. I shan't give away all of the details so you'll be inspired to buy your own copy.

The 'voice' of the book is calm and reasonable, but assured. The font is slightly large and the many nice photos make the book look longer than it really is, so it is a quick read. The chapters are laid out logically and the index is helpful so you can find anything you need to almost instantly. I find myself thinking about color-coding the side of the pages for each section and adding a few tabs for oft-referenced pages- but with only 156 pages, it just does not take long enough to find anything that it would be really helpful (but I may do it anyway!)

Quibble points? I might have added a few more charts or bullet lists, or an appendi or two as mentioned earlier, but I really cannot find any issues with the content. Not everyone will agree with every word, especially on the more controversial issues like UVB/D3. Most of the controversial issues will eventually be solved by solid research, but for now I think Mike follows a good path through these topics.

Bottom line: Of all of the books I have read on tortoises, I think this is THE book I would most recommend to a new Red-foot keeper.

(Reposted and edited by the author from turtleforum.com)
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