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.
Photo 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.