Turtle & Tortoise

Yellow-spotted Amazon River Turtles Hatch at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Turtle CU

New York's Rosamond Gifford Zoo announced that 27 Yellow-Spotted Amazon River turtles hatched at the zoo between April 5 and April 12. Named for the yellow spots on the side of its head, it is one of the largest river turtles in South America.

“The hatching of these once-endangered species is exciting for us, as many of them will enhance the exhibits at other accredited zoos around the country,” said Ted Fox, zoo director. “Captive breeding programs are often critical in the survival of a species, and this is a success story we are proud to tell.”

Females typically lay two clutches of eggs each year, each with up to 50 eggs in it. They make their nests in sandy areas on the banks of rivers where the eggs will hatch two to three months after they are laid. In the wild, eggs are laid at the peak of the dry season so the nest will not be washed away.




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Photo Credit: Amelia Beamish/Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Tiny Spiny Turtle Update!

Photo Credit: Bill Hughes

Now you can see the highly endangered baby Spiny Turtle at Tennessee Aquarium in action after reading all about them in our ZooBorn's Post on February 13. It's evident where this distinctive turtle gets it's name -- from the pointy, spiky-edged prongs on it's shell. In effect, it's likened to a walking pin cushion! It's also called a 'cog-wheel turtle'. 

In the wild, Spiny Turtles usually live in the vicinity of small streams of south-east Asia. While their bony protrusions have been thought to act as armor from predators like snakes, as the turtle grows the edges get worn down, so that in adulthood, Spiny Turtles have a much smoother shell (as seen in the video below).

The gray-brown head and spots on the eyes and legs act as camoflage the turtle in it's natural leafy ground environment in the wild. Unfortunately the ability to hide well in it's habitat has not prevented huge numbers of turtles being caught for the food and pet trades, and in Indonesia the species is considered Critically Endangered, while populations elsewhere are also under threat. 

Tiny Spiny Turtle Hatchling at the Tennessee Aquarium


Big news at the Tennessee Aquarium: A highly endangered spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa) hatched over last weekend of February 4 from a single egg that was incubated at 82 degrees for about 105 days. This latest hatchling is only about 5 cm long and weighs 37 grams.

According to Tennessee Aquarium senior herpetologist Bill Hughes, this tiny turtle is a big success story for a species on the brink of extinction in the wild. "Captive breeding of this species is still an uncommon event, with only three other U.S. zoos having success," Hughes said.  "However, we have worked carefully with these animals and have had 13 spiny turtles to hatch at the Aquarium since 2007."

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has listed this species as Critically Endangered in Indonesia, and Endangered in other parts of its range. Over-collecting these animals in the wild has led to the demise of these rather amazing turtles. Hatchlings like this one, and others in this special management program, represent the last hope if this species vanishes in the wild. So each rare turtle hatchling is worth celebrating.

Photo Credit: Bill Hughes

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Ringing In The New Year With 6 Tiny Turtle Hatchlings

Turtle - Prague Zoo

Zoo Prague rang in the New Year with the hatching of six baby Leopard Tortoises. Three of the six had hatched yesterday and the remaining three emerged in time for New Year's day. The fourth largest Turtle species in the world, Leopard Tortoises can grow to be 28 inches long and weigh 120 pounds! The striking pattern on its shell gives the Leopard Tortoise it's name. While little is known about the reproduction requirements for these Tortoises, Zoo Prague were the first breeders of the species to learn that cool temperatures (between 10 and 15 degrees celsius) were needed for the initial development of their eggs.

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Photo credit: Peter Velenský, Prague Zoo

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African Sulcata Tortoise Hatchlings Pose For Family Portrait


These are a few of some 45 hatchlings from the Linton Zoological Gardens in the UK. They are African Sulcata Giant Tortoises, also knowns as Spurred Tortoises -- the third largest tortoise in the world, second only to the Galapagos and the Aldabra Tortoises. Some babies hatched in August, but most did in September, making them about 8 weeks old. All are eating well and growing. Hatchlings begin at 2-3 inches (.08-1.2 cm), quickly reaching 6-10 inches (15–25 cm) within the first few years of their lives. Adults are usually 24 to 36 inch long (60–90 cm) and can weigh 100-200 pounds (45 – 91 kg). 

A representative from the Linton Zoo reported, "Getting these newly hatched all looking the same way proved to be an impossible task. Babies are not normally kept loose in the paddock with the adults, but enjoy the comfort and safety of nice warm vivariums with UV and Infra-red lamps, but we wanted to try to get a nice family portrait!"

Below they are with their mom, Kali, who is 30 years old, and one of the possible fathers of the four males at the Zoo. Each year their herd of six African Sulcata Giant Tortoises produce a few young, but this year they had a bumper hatch --which is how they ended up with over 40 babies from the two clutches.

This species is classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List, but fortunately zoological collections have mastered the art of breeding them in captivity. They are native to the Sahara in Africa.




Photo Credit: Linton Zoo

Australasia's First Ever Galapagos Tortoise Hatchling


Taronga Western Plains Zoo has achieved a national breeding success hatching Australasia’s first Galapagos Tortoise in March this year. The hatchling came out of the egg on March 19 and has been carefully looked after by keepers and veterinary staff.  It now weighs 94.8 grams and is only 8cm long but it’s doing very well. The hatchling is currently housed in a special area behind the scenes which is temperature controlled allowing keepers to ensure optimum conditions for this new arrival.





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Two Tiny Turtles in Tennessee

This month two rare baby turtles have give staffers at the Tennessee Aquarium two more reason to celebrate World Turtle Day on Monday May 23.

"A spiny turtle hatched on May 1st and last week a four-eyed turtle hatched,” said Bill Hughes, Tennessee Aquarium senior herpetologist.  “Both species are considered endangered in the wild.”

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Spinosa web 2 

Spiny turtles have shells with distinctive pointed edges and are sometimes known as cogwheel turtles. The Tennessee Aquarium, Knoxville Zoo, Tulsa Zoo and Zoo Atlanta are the only public institutions in the United States to have successfully bred this species. This new spiny baby will remain off-exhibit until it gets a little bigger, but guests can view a rather small spiny turtle hatched in 2009 in the Turtle Gallery on Level 2 of the River Journey building.

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Four-eyed turtles get their name from the ocelli, or false eye markings that occur on the back of the head. The current U.S. zoo population of this species consists of the 28 individuals at the Tennessee Aquarium and one male at the Charles Paddock Zoo in California. “Adult males and females have different ocelli patterns,” said Hughes. “This baby’s head pattern is similar to a female’s, but so far all of the ones we’ve hatched have had the same pattern.” This hatchling will also remain off-exhibit until it gets a little larger, but guests can view two hatchlings from 2009 in the Turtle Gallery nursery tanks.

Like many Southeast Asian turtle species, spiny turtles and four-eyed turtles have been overharvested in the wild for food and traditional medicine trade. Successful breeding programs such as the Aquarium’s help maintain assurance populations in case numbers of their wild counterparts fail to rebound. Collins encourages Aquarium visitors to explore the exhibits at a turtle’s pace to appreciate the special adaptations and extremes in form of each species. Said Collins, “When people develop an awareness and appreciation for these remarkable animals they’re more likely to help protect them.”


13 Snake-Necked Turtle Babies Swim in to Denver Zoo


Thirteen Reimann's (RYE-man's) Snake-Necked Turtles have hatched at Denver Zoo. The almost fully-aquatic, freshwater species can only be found in Papua New Guinea. As their name indicates, they are known for their long necks, so long that they aren't able to fully pull their heads into their shells. Instead they wrap their necks around the front and sides of their shell to provide predators less of a target. Though adults can grow to more than 10 inches long, the hatchlings are all about the size of a quarter. Some of them may soon be seen in Tropical Discovery's nursery.



Photo credits: Dave Parsons

Tiny Tim the Tortoise has “Grape” Expectations


What the Dickens? This tiny month-old Egyptian Tortoise at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire, UK, is dwarfed by a juicy grape. He is part of a small litter born to a group of Tortoise seized by HM Customs and Excise last year that were destined for the illegal pet trade. Weighing in at just 6g on hatching, the tiny Tortoise will grow to 500g over the next 10 years, when he might just be big enough to enjoy a whole grape to himself. These critically endangered creatures originate from Egypt and Libya, but visitors to Whipsnade Zoo can see the pint-sized chap taking one of his slow jaunts around his specially designed miniature home.


Photo credits: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Walk Like a Rare Egyptian Tortoise

A handful of Egyptian Tortoise hatchlings

The Woodland Park Zoo is going to great lengths to help protect a tiny little tortoise. Critically endangered in the wild, the Egyptian Tortoise is the smallest tortoise in the Northern Hemisphere and, despite it's name, is now extinct in Egypt. Habitat destruction, human encroachment, and poaching for the pet trade continue to threaten small remaining wild population in Libya. Luckily, the Woodland Park Zoo in concert with the Egyptian Tortoise Conservation Program helps address these challenges in part by working closely with the Beduoin community, empowering them to patrol for wildlife collectors. Learn more about what Woodland Park Zoo is doing on their blog. Don't miss the great video set to a snappy tune below.

Egyptian Tortoise hatchlings strike a pose at Woodland Park Zoo

Egyptian Tortoise hatchlings read palms! Who knew

Photo and video credits: Ryan Hawk / Woodland Park Zoo