Endangered Radiated Tortoises Hatch at Chester Zoo

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Two critically endangered Radiated Tortoises have hatched at Chester Zoo.

The “golf ball-sized” hatchlings, which are usually found in the dry forests of southern and southwestern Madagascar, are the first of their kind to be bred at the Zoo in seven years.

Conservationists at Chester Zoo have been working to hatch the tortoises after seeing at first-hand the ongoing devastation to their forest home in Madagascar.

After eggs were laid in October by 50-year-old mum, Smoothsides. The Zoo’s new duo emerged on January 16, following an incubation of 100 days. The genders of the hatchlings are not yet known.

Both youngsters are currently being cared for in a climate-controlled behind-the-scenes breeding facility. Radiated Tortoises regularly reach the age of 100. The hatchlings parents are 75-year-old dad, Burt, and 50-year-old mum, Smoothsides. Once old enough, the young duo will join the four male and six female adult tortoises, which range from 10 to 75 years, in the Zoo’s Tropical Realm habitat.

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4_Tiny rare tortoises from Madagascar hatch at Chester Zoo (18)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo (Images 11,12: Tortoise dad, Burt)

Boasting star-shaped markings on their shells in yellow and black, the Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) is considered one of the world’s most beautiful tortoises and can grow up to half a metre in length. However, they are often victims of their own size and beauty, and conservationists say they are now classed as “Critically Endangered” in the wild.

The number of Radiated Tortoises, like most animals native to Madagascar, is in drastic decline.

Chester Zoo has been caring for the species since 2003 in the hope of creating a genetically viable population, as part of a coordinated European breeding programme. The Zoo is also working closely with field conservation partners, Madagasikara Voakajy, to restore and protect forests in Madagascar.

Deforestation of vital habitat to make way for agricultural land and grazing, hunting for their meat and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade has devastated tortoise numbers. In addition, species introduced to Madagascar by humans, such as rats and pigs, have had further impact as they eat the tortoise’s eggs and babies.

It is estimated that 18 million Radiated Tortoises have already been lost from Madagascar in the last 30 years.

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If You Give a Zoo a Pancake…


A Pancake Tortoise was recently hatched at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo. The tortoise has been named Pamba and is an important addition to the Zoo as the species is classed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Gareth Bennett, Senior Presentation Keeper at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said, “We are very happy to be announcing the hatching of the first ever Pancake Tortoise to be born at the Zoo. The wild population is under threat due to young Pancake Tortoises being captured to be sold as pets. Pamba’s parents are an example of this as they joined us from Edinburgh Airport, where they had been seized by customs after being illegally imported. We welcomed them into our care and are very pleased to say they have thrived here.”

“Pamba’s birth is very important as it adds important genetic diversity to the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, which is helping to safeguard the species from the decline in the wild.”



Pancake4Photo Credits: RZSS/Siân Addison

The Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) is a species of flat-shelled tortoise in the family Testudinidae. The species is native to Tanzania and Kenya. Its common name refers to the flat shape of its shell. Aside from the pet trade, Pancake Tortoises are also under threat by continued destruction of their natural habitat for agricultural developments and overgrazing of domestic cattle and goats.

Pamba won’t be on show until the young tortoise is a little older, but visitors to the Zoo can see Pamba’s parents in the Wee Beasties exhibit.



Rare Tortoise Hatches at Smithsonian's National Zoo


The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is celebrating a conservation milestone; for the first time, a rare Spider Tortoise has hatched in the Reptile Discovery Center. Animal care staff are closely monitoring the hatchling, which emerged May 10 in an off-exhibit area. 



17944965865_0fc188c3db_kPhoto Credits: Connor Mallon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Staff have not yet verified the three-week-old tortoise’s sex, as when they are young they show no sexual dimorphism. Keepers report that it appears to be thriving and are encouraged by its growth. If the tortoise continues to progress, it will be on exhibit this summer. In the meantime, Zoo visitors can see a family group of adult male Spider Tortoises on exhibit.

The tortoise’s parents came to the Zoo in January 2014 per a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan. Female Spider Tortoises do not lay a clutch of eggs; rather, they lay one egg at a time, over a period of months. The Zoo’s female laid her first egg in August 2014, but that egg did not hatch. The second egg was laid in September 2014, and this hatchling emerged. A third egg, laid in October 2014, has yet to hatch. 

Spider Tortoise eggs can be difficult to hatch in human care, in part because they must be incubated, cooled, and incubated again during the embryo’s development. The Zoo will share the information gathered about this species’ breeding and development with AZA, for the benefit of other institutions that exhibit and want to breed this species.

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Baby Tortoise Will Grow Up Flat As a Pancake

Baby pancake!!

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.

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Pancake quarterPhoto 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.  

It’s All About that Pumpkin

African Lion Cub_San Diego Zoo

Pumpkins are everywhere, this time of year! They make great pies, Jack-O-Lanterns, and pretty awesome enrichment toys for zoo animals. Happy Halloween from ZooBorns!

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Red Panda_Lincoln Children's Zoo


Photo Credits: Tammy Spratt/San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Image 1: African Lion Cub); Amiee Stubbs Photography (Image 2: "Charlie" the Porcupine at Nashville Zoo); Lincoln Children's Zoo (Image 3: "Lincoln" the Red Panda); ZooAmerica (Image 4: "Rainier" the Mountain Lion); Zoo Vienna Schönbrunn (Image 5: Elephants); Sue Ogrocki (Images 6-Gorilla,7-Red River Hogs,10-Galapagos Tortoise at Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens); Minnesota Zoo (Image 8: Lynx); The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (Image 9: Meerkats)

More great pumpkin pics below the fold!

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Far from the Galápagos, Breeding Program Hatches Tiny Tortoises

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Success! As a result of a special breeding program, two endangered Galápagos Tortoises have hatched at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia. The tiny tortoises emerged from their shells on January 24 and 26.

These hatchlings follow the zoo's breakthrough breeding achievement in 2011 when Taronga Western Plains Zoo became the first zoo in Australasia to successfully breed Galápagos Tortoise. Now three years old, RJ weighs about 2.4 pounds (1100 g). 

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5 tortoisePhoto credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

One of the longest-living vertebrates, Galápagos Tortoises can live for over 100 years in the wild and reach weights of around 880 pounds (400 kg) and lenghths of up to 5 feet (1.5 m). They are found only on the Galápagos archipelago, west of continental Ecuador. 

Now a protected species, Galápagos Tortoises were reduced by centuries of exploitation as a food source for sailors. Today, only about 15,000 remain in the wild. Released tortoises from captive breeding programs, as well as efforts to restore habitat and manage competing species, are helping to revive populations in the wild. 

See more after the fold.

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Star Tortoise Hatchlings Live Life in the Fast Lane

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Just a few inches long, two Indian Star Tortoises hatched at the Taronga Zoo in late October are already living life in the fast lane.  These normally slow-moving babies can really hoof it when lunch is delivered at the zoo.

Once their meal of greens, veggies, and berries is placed before them, the Tortoises climb into their food bowl.  Surrounded by their tasty treats, the Tortoises start munching away. Hibiscus flowers are offered as a special delicacy.

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Taronga Zoo has enjoyed recent success breeding Indian Star Tortoises.  The zoo’s collection includes five adults, a four-year-old, and a one-year-old, in addition to these two new babies. 

Indian Star Tortoises are named for the striking black markings on their high domed shells.  Highly sought after for the exotic pet trade, populations of these Tortoises are declining in their native India and Sri Lanka.  Because Indian Star Tortoises have low reproduction rates, the Taronga Zoo’s breeding program is important to the captive population. 

Photo Credit:  Taronga Zoo

The Adventures of Tank, the Tiny Tortoise


Tank is a Hermann's Tortoise and he's about 4 months old. He has a brother who's even teenier and tinier than he is. He was left to the U.K.'s Paradise Wildlife Park by their former head of reptiles as a leaving present.

Hermann's Tortoises live across Southern Europe, although their once expansive range has been reduced to scattered pockets. Abundant as pets in captivity, this species is in significant decline in the wild due to habitat destruction.




Photo credit: Paradise Wildlife Park

A Star is Born at Taronga Zoo

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Meet the newest ‘star’ at Australia's Taronga Zoo! Not only is the hatchling an Indian Star tortoise, but this is only the second time Taronga’s reptile keepers have bred this species in 30 years. The little one hatched on January 24 from the only fertile egg in the clutch. At two weeks of age now, the hatchling is smaller than a 50 cent coin. By the time it reaches maturity it will weigh over 15 pounds (7 kilos) -- though that won’t be for six to 12 years, depending on its sex.

Looking at the youngster's shell now, you might wonder as to it's name, but as an adult it will have very distinctive star-like patterns across its high-domed shell.

Right from the start the hatchling was independent, but because it's so tiny, it’s being specially cared for behind the scenes by the keepers. Guests to Taronga's Reptile World will be able to see the adult Star tortoises on display and might even glimpse the hatchling’s three year old cousin which is just beginning to move in with the adults. In the wild, Star tortoises are threatened by hunting, habitat loss and their appeal in the pet trade.


Hatchling1 by Jane Edwards (1)

Greens Jane Edwards
Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo/


More photos after the jump!

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