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.
Turtle & Tortoise
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
One Spiny Hill Turtle, Heosemys Spinosa, hatched at the Tennessee Aquarium Monday, September 20th from a clutch of three eggs that were laid on June 18th. The eggs were incubated at 82 degrees. The hatchling weighs 26 grams and is roughly 2.25 inches across. This is only the eighth successful hatchling of this species at the Aquarium. According to senior herpetologist Bill Hughes, each successful hatchling improves the odds of this species' survival. “We now have seventeen Spiny Hill Turtles in our collection,” Hughes said. “There are eight adults and nine juveniles. The adults are part of the Tennessee Aquarium’s Asian Turtle Breeding Program.”
Interestingly, this little "Hill" Turtle bears a striking resemblance to Morla, the giant sneezing mountain turtle in The Neverending Story.
Photo Credits: The Tennessee Aquarium
Tennessee Aquarium herpetologists have been quite busy recently. Six red-necked pond turtles, Mauremys nigricans, hatched recently from eggs that were laid in the Asian River exhibit about two months ago. The adults are currently on display in that display. The Tennessee Aquarium is currently the only U.S. zoo working with this species, which is considered endangered in the wild in its native China.
Three yellow-blotched map turtles, Graptemys flavimaculata, also hatched recently. This species is classified as Threatened by the Endangered Species Act. Some of the babies from last year are on display in the nursery tanks in Turtle World gallery.
Just a decade ago, Washington's Western Pond Turtle population had shrunk to only about 150 individuals. Habitat destruction, pollution and disease all took their toll on the turtles but the invasive bullfrog proved to be their greatest enemy. Bullfrogs eat tiny turtle hatchlings and the dramatic increase in predation pushed the Western Pond Turtle to the brink. Luckily, the Oregon Zoo in partnership with other organizations created a head-start program, under which baby turtles are collected in the wild and raised in captivity until they are old enough to be released and fend for themselves. By raising them in warm light for eleven months, the turtle hatchlings skip hibernation and in that short time they actually grow the equivalent of three years in the wild!
A Western Pond Turtle raised at the Oregon Zoo is released into the beautiful Washington wilderness. I'd like to be released there...
On July 1st the Monterey Bay Aquarium placed five lively juvenile green sea turtles on exhibit as part of its “Hot Pink Flamingos: Stories of Hope in a Changing Sea” special exhibition. The young sea turtles are just under 9 months old and each is about the size of a dinner plate. The sea turtles are featured in a gallery that shows how rising temperatures could alter the gender of an incubating clutch of sea turtle eggs, or how rising sea levels threaten sea turtles’ nesting beaches.
Senior Aquarist Veronica Franklin brought 10 young sea turtles to the aquarium on June 24 from SeaWorld San Diego, where they were among 82 hatchlings born October 5 to resident sea turtles in the park’s “Shipwreck Beach.” The sea turtles’ gender will remain a mystery until they mature a little more.
The young sea turtles at the aquarium will rotate between the exhibit and behind-the-scenes holding pools. The two larger turtles they replaced, as well as some of the smaller turtles, will be part of the aquarium’s remodeled “Open Sea” galleries that open in July 2011.
There’s more information online about their background, and how Franklin and her staff care for the turtles, at www.montereybayaquarium.org/exhibitupdates.
Long considered a "royal delicacy" in Cambodia, the Batagur turtle has been hunted to near extinction throughout Southeast Asia. Today the turtle is critically endangered and it is unclear where wild Batagurs still live. With the hatching of two baby Batagurs at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo last week, the total number of this rare species in captivity climbs to 20. To breed the rare turtles, a father and son team of herpetology experts, Peter and Reinger Praschag, were brought in to recreate just the right natural environment for egg laying.
Photo credits and copyright: Photos 1 and 2 - Daniel Zupanc. Picture 3: Zoo Vienna / Norbert Potensky