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.
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