Turtle & Tortoise

Tiny Turtle Arrives for ‘World Turtle Day’

Spiny hill turtle 2 (c) ZSL

A tiny turtle made a timely debut on May 15 at ZSL London Zoo. Not only was the Spiny Hill Turtle hatchling the first ever of its kind to hatch at the Zoo, it arrived just in time for World Turtle Day on May 23*.

After keeping a close eye on the egg during its 136 day incubation period, keepers managed to capture the ‘cracking’ moment the endangered Spiny Hill Turtle came out of its shell, on a time lapse camera.

ZSL keeper, Francesca Servini, said, “The reptile team have spent four years carefully researching this fascinating turtle species so we’re very excited to have our first ever hatch at ZSL London Zoo – just in time for World Turtle Day.”

“The hatchling used its special egg-tooth to break the shell’s surface early in the morning, and it took 36 hours to completely push its way out. The egg-tooth, which is a tiny sharp white bump on the turtle’s head, will soon fall off now its job is done.”

The turtle weighed a tiny 33g at birth and measured just 61mm, although it will eventually grow to approximately 27cm in size.

Spiny hill turtle (c) ZSLPhoto Credits: ZSL London Zoo

The Spiny Hill Turtle (Heosemys spinosa) is native to lowland and hill rainforests, usually in the vicinity of small streams, from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

The unusual spiny shell spikes that give the turtles their name are used to deter predators and provide camouflage among their forest floor homes.

The Spiny Hill Turtle has been classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. According to the IUCN: “…known trade volumes of the species have declined by about 50% in Indonesia recently despite high demand in the food trade. It is restricted to small and isolated populations over much of its range, although there is a lack of data for some areas.”

ZSL London Zoo is honored to be a part of the work being done to save this endangered species. According to a Zoo spokesperson, “It has been estimated that more than ten million turtles are being traded for food, traditional medicine and the pet trade each year in Asia, where this turtle originates. The husbandry research being carried out here at ZSL London Zoo is becoming increasingly important in guaranteeing the existence of these animals for the future.”

*American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is celebrating its 17th annual World Turtle Day® on May 23rd. The day was created by ATR to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Now celebrated around the globe, turtle and tortoise lovers are taking “shellfies” and holding “shellebrations” in the US, Canada, Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK and many other countries.

ATR launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures. These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.

For more information about American Tortoise Rescue and World Turtle Day, see their website: www.worldturtleday.org


Tiny Chicken Turtles Hatch at Tennessee Aquarium

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Three Chicken Turtles hatched in mid-April at the Tennessee Aquarium. The tiny trio hatched from eggs that were laid in January by adults in the Aquarium’s ‘Delta Swamp’ exhibit.

At their initial exam, each of these hatchlings measured less than two inches long. As adults, they will grow to about 10 inches in length.

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3_baby chicken turtle with rulerPhoto Credits: Tennessee Aquarium

The Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia) is an uncommon freshwater turtle native to the southeastern United States.

The name "chicken" commonly refers to the taste of their meat, which, at one time, was popular in southern U.S. markets. The species is characterized by a long neck and unique coloring, which could also contribute to the reason for their name.

The Tennessee Aquarium’s herpetologists often point out that Chicken Turtles look as if they are wearing striped pants when viewed from behind.

Chicken Turtles are semiaquatic turtles, found both in water and on land. They prefer quiet, still bodies of water such as shallow ponds and lakes, ditches, marshes, cypress swamps, and bays. They prefer water with dense vegetation and soft substrate.

The turtles are omnivorous, eating crayfish, fish, fruits, insects, invertebrates, frogs, tadpoles, and plants. During the first year of their lives, they are almost completely carnivorous.

Eggs hatch in about 152 days. The turtles lay eggs during the winter months, with the eggs hatching in the spring. The eggs undergo diapauses: meaning, the eggs don’t develop immediately after laying as with other species of turtles.

The Chicken Turtle is currently classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. Populations are currently considered stable throughout their range, although they do face potential threats.

Habitat destruction reduces suitable habitat for foraging, migration, and hibernation. Chicken Turtles are sometimes killed while crossing roadways, as they migrate between habitats.


Tiny Turtles Help Save Their Species

1_Hatchlings 2_Photo by Paul Fahy

The conservation effort to save the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle from extinction has received a huge boost after 21 tiny turtles hatched as part of a NSW (New South Wales) Government captive breeding program at Taronga Zoo.

The turtles began to hatch on January 19 as part of the first ever breeding program for this critically endangered species.

“There could be as few as 200 Bellinger River Snapping Turtles remaining in the wild, so these hatchlings have a vital role to play in rebuilding this population,” Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said.

2_Hatchlings 3_Photo by Paul Fahy

3_Hatchlings 9_Photo by Paul Fahy

4_Hatchlings 7_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credits: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo established the breeding program after a newly discovered disease wiped out up to 90 per cent of their local population of Bellinger River Snapping Turtles (Myuchelys georgesi) on the mid-north coast near Bellingen, NSW, Australia in 2015.

A government emergency response team was formed to investigate and coordinate the rescue of a group of healthy turtles to establish an insurance population.

Taronga Keeper Adam Skidmore said he was surprised at how quickly the turtles had settled into their new home, with four of the five females producing eggs this breeding season.

“We weren’t really expecting any hatchlings this year, so it was an amazing result to get four clutches of eggs. The team was very excited to see the first hatchlings push their way out of the eggs,” Mr. Skidmore said.

Weighing 4-5 grams at birth, the hatchlings have begun eating and swimming and are being closely monitored by keepers in a special quarantine facility at Taronga.

The long-term aim of the breeding program is to raise and release hatchlings back into Bellinger River. Meanwhile, Australian Registry of Wildlife Health researchers continue to investigate the cause of the disease and monitor the remaining turtles and other wildlife in the Bellinger River catchment system.

More great turtle pics below the fold!

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Aquarium Welcomes Their New Loggerhead Hatchling

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Adventure Aquarium welcomed its own “Baby New Year” for 2017. Last week, the New Jersey facility announced the arrival of their new Loggerhead Sea Turtle hatchling.

The young turtle hatched in August and will call Adventure Aquarium home for most of the year. This coming fall, it will be released into the Gulf Stream, off the coast of North Carolina, along with other yearlings from aquariums all over the country.

Staff says they won’t know the gender of the little one, as that can’t be identified until a Loggerhead Sea Turtle reaches sexual maturity at the approximate age of 21.

Each year, Adventure Aquarium welcomes a hatchling from North Carolina Aquarium, at Pine Knoll Shores Sea Turtle Program, to rehabilitate for one year. Biologists will help guide and train the hatchling to do activities it would normally do in the wild as a sort of “survival school” for Sea Turtles.

“The hatchling came to us weighing 86 grams [a little over 3 oz.] and is now over 226 grams, or just under eight ounces,” said Nikki Grandinetti, Curator of Fish and Invertebrates at Adventure Aquarium. “He loves jellies and shrimp. He’s also very active and investigates anything with his mouth.”

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Hatchling3 (1)Photo Credits: Adventure Aquarium

During the month of January, Adventure Aquarium is also asking guests to help select the name of the young turtle at a voting station located in the Main Lobby of the Aquarium. The name options are: Darwin, Griswold, Groot and Tina. Using spare change, guests visiting Adventure Aquarium will be able to vote for their favorite name choice. The winning name will be announced this coming February.

Check Adventure Aquarium’s website and social accounts for the latest news about their Loggerhead hatchling, as well as the other Aquarium animals, events and more: http://www.adventureaquarium.com

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Endangered Map Turtles Hatch at Nashville Zoo

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Nashville Zoo is excited to announce the hatching of four endangered Yellow-blotched Map Turtles. This hatching ranks Nashville Zoo as the third AZA institution to ever successfully breed these beautifully patterned turtles.

“This is an exciting hatching for the Yellow-blotched Map Turtle and for the Zoo,” says Dale McGinnity, Nashville Zoo’s Ectotherm Curator. “We are bringing awareness to the community about this threatened species and hope to increase support for the protection of this rare turtle’s continued survival in the wild through our conservation efforts.”

During the breeding of this rare species, the Zoo’s Herpetology team was able to decide what sex the hatchlings would be by monitoring the temperatures during the 80-85 day incubation period. Incubating at cooler temperatures typically hatches males and incubating at warmer temperatures hatches more females. When the time is right and the turtles are ready to emerge from their shells, they are equipped with an egg tooth, which is a hardened piece of keratin that protrudes from the tips of their noses. A team of keepers was on standby during hatching to ensure the smooth and safe hatching of each of the four turtles.

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4_map-turtles-5-webPhoto Credits: Katie Gregory

Yellow-blotched Map turtles (Graptemys flavimaculata) are found exclusively in the Pascagoula River, and its tributaries, in southern Mississippi.

This species was listed, in the United States, as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1991. The State of Mississippi and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also classify the species as endangered. Yellow-blotched Map Turtles have been of long-term concern due to a very limited range and declining populations due to habitat degradation by pollution and river channel modifications.

Nashville Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for Yellow-blotched Map Turtles to increase the captive population, as well as raise awareness for this rare and endangered turtle. Guests can see the Zoo's new turtles on-exhibit inside Unseen New World.


Zoo Awash With Hurricane-Stranded Baby Turtles

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Tossed by the violent winds and powerful waves of two Atlantic hurricanes, hundreds of tiny Sea Turtles have been rescued by Florida’s Brevard Zoo – and more wash ashore every day.

The little Loggerhead, Green, and Hawksbill Turtles would normally be living in their nursery habitat on masses of seaweed in the open ocean.  But waves generated by hurricanes Matthew and Nicole pushed the Turtles, along with seaweed and tons of discarded plastic, ashore on Florida’s east coast.

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Photo Credit:  Brevard Zoo

The Turtles, known as “washbacks” because they’ve washed back onto the shore, are retrieved by volunteers from the Sea Turtle Preservation Society and taken to the zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center.  The young Turtles are typically lethargic and weak upon arrival, but the zoo is committed to nursing them back to health.  The zoo staff has observed that many of the turtles have swallowed tiny bits of plastic and foreign debris, which obstructs their digestive systems and contributes to their weakened state.  About a dozen young Turtles have died, probably as a result of ingesting plastic, according to Elliot Zurulnik, Brevard Zoo Communications Manager.

The zoo plans to release as many of the young turtles as possible, but will only do so when an individual is eating well, actively swimming, and able to dive underwater.

Seven species of Sea Turtles are found in oceans worldwide, and all are under threat.  Hawksbill Turtles are Critically Endangered, Green Turtles are Endangered, and Loggerhead Turtles are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Threats to Sea Turtles include loss of beach nesting habitat, bycatch from improper fishing operations, poaching for eggs and meat, marine debris, and climate change. 

See more photos below.

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Zoo Gives Baby Snappers a Head Start

20160922_123518Even powerful creatures like Alligator Snapping Turtles need a little help sometimes – that’s why the Nashville Zoo is headstarting 30 young snappers for eventual release into Tennessee’s waterways. 

The hatchlings came to Nashville from the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery in Oklahoma and are now being cared for behind-the-scenes at the zoo.  The hatchlings will remain at the zoo for three years, after which they will be released into the wild as part of a statewide program to boost populations of Alligator Snapping Turtles.

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20160929_112135Photo Credit:  Katie Gregory

Headstarting programs like this can help bring species back from the brink.  Female Alligator Snapping Turtles don’t produce large quantities of eggs, and many eggs laid in the wild are lost to predation.  By collecting eggs from wild females, raising hatchlings in a protected environment, and releasing juveniles once they have attained a larger size, biologists can boost the number of surviving young. 

With their expertise at caring for animals in aquariums and controlled environments, zoos are recognized as vital partners in the fight to save native species.   

After the Turtles’ release, zoo staff will monitor the young to determine the success of the headstarting program. 

Weighing 50-100 pounds as adults, Alligator Snapping Turtles are almost prehistoric in appearance.  They spend nearly all of their life in water, feeding on fish and other aquatic animals.  To lure prey within striking distance, these Turtles sit with mouths open to reveal a small, pink, worm-like appendage in the back of the mouth.  Once the prey swims close enough, the Turtle clamps down on it with powerful jaws.

Once inhabiting most of the rivers in the Mississippi watershed, Alligator Snapping Turtles (not to be confused with Common Snapping Turtles, which are abundant in waterways across the region) were decimated in the 1960s and 70s by commercial harvesting for their meat.  Today, habitat loss, egg predation, and the high rate of hatchling predation threaten the species.

 


Endangered Blanding’s Turtles Released in Canada

1_Blanding's Turtles (June 2016) _ credit Heike Reuse (2)

On June 21, the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) reintroduced 36 baby Blanding's Turtles to a wetland that will be part of Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area (Canada’s first national urban park).

This is the third year Blanding’s Turtles have been released in the park. In June 2015, the same group of partners collaborated on the release of 21 baby Blanding’s Turtles in the Rouge and in June 2014, 10 baby turtles were released.

The long-lived species, with a life span of up to 80 years, has inhabited the Rouge Valley for thousands of years, though prior to 2014 its future was uncertain, with as few as six Blanding’s Turtles remaining.

2_Blanding's Turtles (June 2016) _ credit Heike Reuse (4)

3_Blanding's Turtles (June 2016) _ credit Heike Reuse (1)

4_Blanding's Turtles (June 2016) _ credit Heike Reuse (5)Photo Credits: Heike Reuse 

“Blanding’s Turtles are a flagship species representing a group of animals facing a variety of threats," said Dr. Andrew Lentini, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Toronto Zoo. "Seven of eight turtle species in Ontario are at risk and need our help. All Canadians can learn how to help turtles by visiting Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond website and by reporting sighting to Toronto Zoo’s Ontario Turtle Tally.”

In February 2016, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, and Minister responsible for Parks Canada Catherine McKenna announced that Parks Canada would be making a $150,000 contribution to the Toronto Zoo to support the Blanding’s head start program in the Rouge.

“Blanding's Turtles are an important indicator of a healthy park,” said Pam Veinotte, Parks Canada's Superintendent responsible for Rouge National Urban Park. "Parks Canada is dedicated to re-establishing a healthy, local population of this threatened turtle species in Rouge National Urban Park now and for future generations, and we are thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with the Toronto Zoo and other wonderful partners to conserve and restore threatened species in Canada's first national urban park.”

The turtle eggs were collected from a stable source population in southern Ontario in 2014 and have been raised in a controlled environment at the Toronto Zoo over the last two years. The University of Toronto Scarborough has joined this head-starting project and is assisting with long-term monitoring of the released turtles. Parks Canada, the TRCA and the Toronto Zoo believe that this type of head starting and reintroduction of the turtles, along with long-term monitoring and ongoing habitat restoration, are keys to the animal’s survival in the future Rouge National Urban Park.

The local public can help protect the turtles by avoiding their nesting areas and by contacting authorities if they observe harmful behavior toward turtles or suspicious behavior in their habitat. The location of the wetland housing the reintroduced turtles will not be disclosed at this time to help minimize disturbances and give the animals the best chance of surviving.

The Toronto Zoo and TRCA began collecting information on and monitoring Blanding’s Turtles in the Rouge Valley in 2005. Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided funding, permits and in-kind support for Blanding’s Turtle monitoring in the Rouge Valley in previous years. With the area slated to become Canada’s first national urban park, Parks Canada has come on board and will continue to work on a long-term turtle monitoring program.

Earth Rangers, an environmental conservation organization focused on engaging youth in the protection of nature, also provided support for the project by building a facility to house the turtle eggs and babies at the Toronto Zoo.

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Teeny Turtles Hatch At Sacramento Zoo

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It’s been a busy hatching season for Western Pond Turtles at the Sacramento Zoo.  So far, seven eggs have been collected from the zoo’s Turtles and placed in an incubator until they hatch after 13 to 17 weeks.

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Photo Credit:  Sacramento Zoo

The tiny hatchlings weigh only five grams at hatching – about the same as five paper clips.  They’ll stay indoors under zoo keepers’ care until they are large enough to be released into lake exhibits within the zoo. 

The Sacramento Zoo is home to one of the largest populations of Western Pond Turtles housed within a zoo.  As Turtles are found in the zoo’s lakes, they are weighed and measured.  This data set, compiled over the last two decades, adds to the body of knowledge on growth information for this species.  Western Pond Turtles in zoos are managed by the AZA Species Survival Plan to maintain genetic diversity. 

In the wild, Western Pond Turtles are native to the western coast of North America, from Canada to Baja California, living in marshes, ponds, and wetlands, where they often bask on logs and boulders.  These Turtles have disappeared from much of the northern segment of their range because wetlands have been converted for agricultural use. As a result, Turtle populations have become fragmented.  The species is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

 


Tiny Rescued Sea Turtle Arrives at Temporary Home

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A new Loggerhead Sea Turtle hatchling recently splashed into his new temporary home in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Open Sea gallery! The tiny turtle will stay at the aquarium for one to two years, while aquarists carefully rear it to a larger size and prepare it for release back into the ocean.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores loans rescued turtles to aquariums around the country as a way to share the story of this endangered species, while the youngsters grow large enough for release. When they are ready, the turtles are flown back to North Carolina for release into their native waters.

In the wild, Loggerheads migrate long distances, so they’re particularly vulnerable to accidental capture by commercial fisheries. The turtles can become caught in shrimp trawler nets or entangled in long-lines.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium recently released its third Loggerhead back into the Atlantic, alongside other rescued reptiles from U.S. zoos and aquariums. To stay updated on the journey of the newly released juvenile loggerhead, who has logged nearly 600 miles in just over a week, follow #TravelingTurtle on Twitter and Instagram! And check out Monterey Bay Aquarium's tumblr to learn how aquariums and zoos across the country are working together to help this endangered species: http://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/131508274553/a-turtles-journey-home

Photo and Video Courtesy: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Information about the Sea Turtle Program from North Carolina Aquariums:

Coastal North Carolina is a nesting site for Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta), Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) and occasionally Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) Sea Turtles.

Sea Turtles may live for several decades in the open oceans but their lives are most at risk during the first few minutes after they emerge from the nest. Nests deposited on the beach from May through August usually hatch at night from July through October. Hatchlings scramble quickly out of the nest and toward the ocean in a race for life against predators, disorienting light sources and other obstacles.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) oversees the monitoring of nests and hatchlings through an extensive network of volunteers and institutions, including the North Carolina Aquariums. Sometimes hatchlings are too weak to get to the ocean on their own or are found far from the ocean if they’ve become disoriented. These hatchlings are brought to the Aquariums for a brief period of care prior to being released into the wild. Hatchlings recuperate in a carefully controlled environment, where Aquarists ensure that the animals eat and demonstrate healthy activity such as diving.

Most of these post-crawl hatchlings are released immediately directly into the Gulf Stream offshore. Although detailed movements of juvenile Sea Turtles are not well known, it has been determined that they likely spend their first 15 to 20 years feeding and growing in warmer waters, such as the Gulf Stream, before they reach sexual maturity. It is estimated that one in 1,000 turtles will reach this stage.

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