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Tiny Turtle at the Bristol Zoo

Smaller than a matchbook (see picture below if you don't believe us) and weighing just 15 grams or the same as a few paper clips, this Chinese box turtle was born a few weeks ago at Bristol Zoo Gardens. Endangered due to overhunting for meat and medicinal purposes, Chinese box turtles are quite social and congregate in groups. In captivity they have been known to live up to 50 years.

Chinese box turtle baby hatchling 1

Chinese box turtle baby hatchling 2

Hatching in mud can be messy...

Chinese box turtle hatching from egg 3

Thanks to ZB reader Meredyth for bring this to our attention.
Tiny, endangered turtle born at Bristol Zoo Gardens
A tiny, endangered turtle has been born at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

The Chinese box turtle, also known as a Yellow-margined box turtle, hatched three weeks ago. It weighs just 15 grams and measures around 4cm long. An adult box turtle weighs around 800 grams, measures around 16cm long (6.5 inches) and can live up to 50-years-old. 

The new arrival is smaller than a matchbox and lives in Bristol Zoo’s reptile house alongside 14 adult box turtles, under the watchful eye of the Zoo’s team of reptile experts.

Tim Skelton, Bristol Zoo Gardens’ curator of reptiles, said: “Chinese box turtles are considered an endangered species so we are thrilled with this new arrival. It is doing very well, eating plenty and growing stronger every day.”

He added: “We have kept Chinese box turtles at the Zoo for three years and this is just our second hatch so it is fantastic news and will greatly help our understanding of the breeding and incubation of the more critically endangered turtles that we are trying to breed.” 

There are nine species of box turtle listed by the International Union for Endangered Species (IUCN), seven of which are listed as ‘critically endangered’. Chinese box turtles are hunted for their meat, for use in medicine or as pets and have been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. 

The IUCN assesses the conservation status of animal species on a global scale in order to highlight those which are threatened with extinction, and to promote their conservation.

Some box turtles are mainly terrestrial, although they will enter shallow water to hunt and soak. Others are far more aquatic and can spend most of their time in water. They live in a variety of habitats, from sub-tropical to temperate regions, and nearly always live near water. 

Chinese box turtles are sociable animals and have been observed in groups on the banks of streams in the mountains or swimming in still, shallow water. They are omnivorous, meaning they feed both on animal and plant matter, and can live to more than 50 years old.