The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s newest baby may be small, but the tiny Black-breasted Leaf Turtle could play an important role in saving an endangered species.
Photo Credit: Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
The teensy terrapin hatched on May 10 after a 75-day incubation. At three weeks old, it weighed just over six grams (about the same weight as a quarter). Black-breasted Leaf Turtles in zoos are managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). For now, zoo keepers are caring for the hatchling behind-the-scenes and monitoring its progress carefully, feeding it fruit, vegetables, crickets, and worms.
Why are Black-breasted Leaf Turtles endangered? It all comes down to habitat destruction and over-collection in their native range of Southeast Asia. These Turtles are collected for use in Traditional Asian Medicine, and are often sold as pets. Their unique facial expressions, scallop-edged shells, and small size make them particularly attractive within the pet trade. Black-breasted Leaf Turtles live up to 20 years but only reach an average length of five inches, making them one of the smallest Turtles in the world.