Tortoise

Rare Tortoise Hatches at Smithsonian's National Zoo

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The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is celebrating a conservation milestone; for the first time, a rare Spider Tortoise has hatched in the Reptile Discovery Center. Animal care staff are closely monitoring the hatchling, which emerged May 10 in an off-exhibit area. 

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17944965865_0fc188c3db_kPhoto Credits: Connor Mallon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Staff have not yet verified the three-week-old tortoise’s sex, as when they are young they show no sexual dimorphism. Keepers report that it appears to be thriving and are encouraged by its growth. If the tortoise continues to progress, it will be on exhibit this summer. In the meantime, Zoo visitors can see a family group of adult male Spider Tortoises on exhibit.

The tortoise’s parents came to the Zoo in January 2014 per a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan. Female Spider Tortoises do not lay a clutch of eggs; rather, they lay one egg at a time, over a period of months. The Zoo’s female laid her first egg in August 2014, but that egg did not hatch. The second egg was laid in September 2014, and this hatchling emerged. A third egg, laid in October 2014, has yet to hatch. 

Spider Tortoise eggs can be difficult to hatch in human care, in part because they must be incubated, cooled, and incubated again during the embryo’s development. The Zoo will share the information gathered about this species’ breeding and development with AZA, for the benefit of other institutions that exhibit and want to breed this species.

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Baby Tortoise Will Grow Up Flat As a Pancake

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A baby Tortoise hatched on April 4 at the Como Zoo will grow up to be as flat as a pancake – but that’s exactly what this species, called the Pancake Tortoise, is supposed to be.

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Pancake quarterPhoto Credit:  Como Zoo

In their native homes of Kenya and Tanzania, Pancake Tortoises’ flat shells allow them to escape predators by squeezing into tight crevices among rocks.  Their shells are extra flexible, and these reptiles are remarkably good climbers.  The combination of flexibility, speed, and agility is key to Pancake Tortoises’ survival. 

Como Zoo’s little hatchling began as an egg laid in October 2014.  Zoo staff incubated the egg for 170 days at 88 degrees Fahrenheit in hopes of producing a female because Pancake Tortoise gender is determined by incubation temperature. Now the size of a golf ball, the hatchling will grow to about six inches in length and weigh about one pound as an adult. This is the first Pancake Tortoise to hatch at the Como Zoo.

Though they are protected in both Kenya and Tanzania, Pancake Tortoises are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to collection for the pet trade and loss of native habitat to agricultural use.  The Como Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan for Pancake Tortoises to sustain a genetically viable zoo population.  


It’s All About that Pumpkin

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Pumpkins are everywhere, this time of year! They make great pies, Jack-O-Lanterns, and pretty awesome enrichment toys for zoo animals. Happy Halloween from ZooBorns!

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Photo Credits: Tammy Spratt/San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Image 1: African Lion Cub); Amiee Stubbs Photography (Image 2: "Charlie" the Porcupine at Nashville Zoo); Lincoln Children's Zoo (Image 3: "Lincoln" the Red Panda); ZooAmerica (Image 4: "Rainier" the Mountain Lion); Zoo Vienna Schönbrunn (Image 5: Elephants); Sue Ogrocki (Images 6-Gorilla,7-Red River Hogs,10-Galapagos Tortoise at Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens); Minnesota Zoo (Image 8: Lynx); The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (Image 9: Meerkats)

More great pumpkin pics below the fold!

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Far from the Galápagos, Breeding Program Hatches Tiny Tortoises

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Success! As a result of a special breeding program, two endangered Galápagos Tortoises have hatched at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia. The tiny tortoises emerged from their shells on January 24 and 26.

These hatchlings follow the zoo's breakthrough breeding achievement in 2011 when Taronga Western Plains Zoo became the first zoo in Australasia to successfully breed Galápagos Tortoise. Now three years old, RJ weighs about 2.4 pounds (1100 g). 

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5 tortoisePhoto credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

One of the longest-living vertebrates, Galápagos Tortoises can live for over 100 years in the wild and reach weights of around 880 pounds (400 kg) and lenghths of up to 5 feet (1.5 m). They are found only on the Galápagos archipelago, west of continental Ecuador. 

Now a protected species, Galápagos Tortoises were reduced by centuries of exploitation as a food source for sailors. Today, only about 15,000 remain in the wild. Released tortoises from captive breeding programs, as well as efforts to restore habitat and manage competing species, are helping to revive populations in the wild. 

See more after the fold.

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Star Tortoise Hatchlings Live Life in the Fast Lane

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Just a few inches long, two Indian Star Tortoises hatched at the Taronga Zoo in late October are already living life in the fast lane.  These normally slow-moving babies can really hoof it when lunch is delivered at the zoo.

Once their meal of greens, veggies, and berries is placed before them, the Tortoises climb into their food bowl.  Surrounded by their tasty treats, the Tortoises start munching away. Hibiscus flowers are offered as a special delicacy.

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Taronga Zoo has enjoyed recent success breeding Indian Star Tortoises.  The zoo’s collection includes five adults, a four-year-old, and a one-year-old, in addition to these two new babies. 

Indian Star Tortoises are named for the striking black markings on their high domed shells.  Highly sought after for the exotic pet trade, populations of these Tortoises are declining in their native India and Sri Lanka.  Because Indian Star Tortoises have low reproduction rates, the Taronga Zoo’s breeding program is important to the captive population. 

Photo Credit:  Taronga Zoo


The Adventures of Tank, the Tiny Tortoise

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Tank is a Hermann's Tortoise and he's about 4 months old. He has a brother who's even teenier and tinier than he is. He was left to the U.K.'s Paradise Wildlife Park by their former head of reptiles as a leaving present.

Hermann's Tortoises live across Southern Europe, although their once expansive range has been reduced to scattered pockets. Abundant as pets in captivity, this species is in significant decline in the wild due to habitat destruction.

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Photo credit: Paradise Wildlife Park


A Star is Born at Taronga Zoo

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Meet the newest ‘star’ at Australia's Taronga Zoo! Not only is the hatchling an Indian Star tortoise, but this is only the second time Taronga’s reptile keepers have bred this species in 30 years. The little one hatched on January 24 from the only fertile egg in the clutch. At two weeks of age now, the hatchling is smaller than a 50 cent coin. By the time it reaches maturity it will weigh over 15 pounds (7 kilos) -- though that won’t be for six to 12 years, depending on its sex.

Looking at the youngster's shell now, you might wonder as to it's name, but as an adult it will have very distinctive star-like patterns across its high-domed shell.

Right from the start the hatchling was independent, but because it's so tiny, it’s being specially cared for behind the scenes by the keepers. Guests to Taronga's Reptile World will be able to see the adult Star tortoises on display and might even glimpse the hatchling’s three year old cousin which is just beginning to move in with the adults. In the wild, Star tortoises are threatened by hunting, habitat loss and their appeal in the pet trade.

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Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo/

 

More photos after the jump!

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