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IMG_8998One of the world’s rarest Turtles has hatched at the United Kingdom’s Bristol Zoo Gardens. The tiny, six-week-old Vietnamese Box Turtle weighs just half an ounce (14.6g) and is around the size of a matchbox. DSC_8262

DSC_8498Photo Credit:  Brsitol Zoo Gardens

The Turtle is so precious that it is being kept behind the scenes in a climate-controlled quarantine room. Once it is old enough, the hatchling will join the six adult Box Turtles in the zoo’s Asian Turtle breeding room.

The Turtle hatched after being kept at a constant temperature in an incubator for 85 days. Tim Skelton, curator of reptiles, has cared for Turtles for over 40 years. He said, “This is a very difficult species to breed so I am thrilled with the arrival of this baby; it comes after a lot of hard work.”

It is the second time the zoo has bred this critically endangered species, which it has kept for 12 years. The zoo’s first Vietnamese Box Turtle hatched in 2012 and is doing very well, thriving on a diet of snails, worms and chopped fruit. Bristol Zoo is thought to be just the second zoo in Europe to have ever bred the species.

Tim added, “Little is known about this species so we can learn an awful lot from this baby to improve our chances of breeding more in the future. These are secretive animals so we are keeping it in a warm, humid and quiet room with a constant temperature, in an enclosure to replicate its natural habitat where it can burrow among the soil and leaves.”

An adult Box Turtle weighs around two pounds (one kg), measures around eight inches (20cm) long, and can live for about 50 years.

Box Turtles are mainly terrestrial, although they will enter shallow water to hunt and soak.

They are hunted for their meat, for use in traditional medicines or as pets, and have been listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Bristol Zoo is working with the Turtle Conservation Centre in Cuc Phuong National Park in Vietnam. This year funds were donated to update their breeding facilities, helping them continue to safeguard this species in its home country.