Turtle & Tortoise

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Becomes First Accredited Conservation Organization in North America to Hatch and Raise Endangered Softshell Turtles

New Generation Of Narrow-Headed Turtles Breathes Fresh Life Into Conservation Program To Save This Rare Species

SAN DIEGO (Oct. 3, 2022) – For more than two decades, conservationists from San Diego Wildlife Alliance have been waiting with anticipation as they watched for the slightest signs of breeding from a rare reptile species. This summer, their patience paid off after wildlife care team members at the San Diego Zoo welcomed 41 tiny Indian narrow-headed softshell turtle hatchlings—becoming the first accredited conservation organization in North America to hatch these endangered turtles, and furthering the organization’s ongoing work to save this vital Asian species.


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Bronx Zoo Sends 36 Rote Island Snake-Necked Turtles To Singapore Zoo As Breeding Program Reaches Important Milestone

The Bronx Zoo is working with other zoos and partners toward a major milestone in the conservation of the Rote Island (pronounced RO-tee) snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi). Thirty-six zoo-bred turtles left the Bronx Zoo today bound for Mandai Wildlife Group’s Singapore Zoo as part of a collaboration that will eventually introduce the animals to their native range in Indonesia where the species is functionally extinct.

Julie Larsen Maher_0891_Rote Island Snake-necked Turtles with Kelvin Alvarez_BZ_08 23 22

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Zoo Welcomes Ten Tiny Pond Turtle Hatchlings

Endangered Northwest species gets a head start at the zoo's turtle conservation lab

Ten tiny northwestern pond turtles have arrived at the Oregon Zoo’s conservation lab. The zoo is “head-starting” the endangered reptiles, caring for them until next spring when they will be large enough to have a fighting chance in the wild. 

Visitors can watch the hatchlings grow inside the zoo’s Nature Exploration Station.

“The hatchlings are especially vulnerable at this stage,” said Sara Morgan, senior keeper for the zoo’s Great Northwest area. “They’re smaller than a walnut — so tiny, a bullfrog can gobble them up right out of the nest.”  

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Sea Turtle Treated For Shark Bite at Zoo Miami

While Zoo Miami prepares for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Sea Turtle Hospital scheduled for July 6th, a huge female loggerhead sea turtle that was likely injured by a shark, has necessitated emergency care to help save the life of this threatened species.

On May 22nd, Zoo Miami received a call from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), that a large female loggerhead turtle had been rescued from the Port St. Lucie Power Plant with a severe wound to its left front flipper, leaving only exposed bone and torn flesh, the apparent victim of a shark attack. 


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Breeding Giants!

What does it take to care for four tiny giants?! In part one of Auckland Zoo's two-part series, we follow curator of ectotherms Don and ectotherm keeper Sonja as they show what caring for Galápagos tortoises entails – from carefully excavating their eggs and incubating them for 110-days, to the excitement when four tiny hatchlings emerged earlier this year. Keepers work to create the ideal environment for these precious juvenile tortoises – ensuring their habitats have optimum humidity, temperature and lighting - as well as providing a species appropriate diet and regularly monitoring their growth. Stay tuned for part two where Auckland Zoo introduces the tortoises to their new specially designed crèche, that you’ll be able to visit when it's safe for the zoo to reopen.

Aquariums Come Together To Release Sea Turtle Hatchlings

Over 40 tiny bundles of joy were released into the ocean following rehab at two southwest Florida aquariums

Over the past week, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium took over 40 sea turtle hatchlings offshore to be released following rehabilitation. Mote’s Hatchling Hospital successfully rehabilitated 33 hatchlings, many of which were recovered from pools after they became disoriented. Mote’s team made an additional offshore trip this week to release 10 additional hatchlings that recovered at Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s marine life hospital. These hatchlings suffered from a variety of impairments including disorientation and malnutrition.   

Since sea turtle season began officially in May—although the first nest arrived in Sarasota in April—nearly 800 sea turtle hatchlings have been successfully rehabilitated at Mote’s Hatchling Hospital and over 150 at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. These hatchlings might be recovered during permitted nest excavations or perhaps found after a nest predation event. However, by far the most common reason that a hatchling finds itself in need of TLC is due to disorientation, which occurs when hatchlings emerge from the nest and travel towards artificial lighting instead of the water. Sea turtle hatchlings have a limited energy supply—they emerge from their egg with a yolk sac that nourishes them for a short period of time—and wasting energy going the wrong direction can be deadly. 

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Mid-Summer Baby Boom Brings Tiny Turtles, Pint-Sized Puffers, Petite Penguin Chick To Tennessee Aquarium

Chattanooga, Tenn. (July 27, 2021) – As any parent knows, kids tend to do whatever you least expect. In the case of an endangered Four-eyed Turtle hatchling at the Tennessee Aquarium, however, merely existing was — in itself — a huge surprise.

A baby Long-spine Porcupinefish swims in a backup facility at the Tennessee Aquarium

On July 11, a volunteer was tending an enclosure in a backup area of the River Journey building. This habitat was only supposed to house an endangered female Four-eyed Turtle (Sacalia quadriocellata), but the volunteer soon discovered that the adult turtle wasn’t alone. Perched atop a layer of vegetation was a tiny hatchling that, by all accounts, shouldn’t even have been there.

The Tennessee Aquarium's four-day-old Gentoo Penguin chick weighs just 253 grams (2)

“The adult female hadn’t been with a male in over a year, so we did not check to see if she had laid this year,” says Bill Hughes, the Aquarium’s herpetology coordinator. “To say the least, finding an egg, let alone a hatchling, was unexpected.”

Tennessee Aquarium Herpetology Coordinator holds a pair of recently hatched Four-eyed Turtles

Hughes says females of some turtle species have been documented to store sperm until conditions favor fertilization. This adaptation may be behind the unexpected hatching, but at the moment, the tiny turtle’s origins remain a mystery.

The baby Four-eyed joins another that hatched on June 10 from an egg husbandry staff were aware of and had been monitoring. The first hatchling emerged from an egg laid on April 15. Both are eating and doing well.

Since 2007, the Aquarium has successfully hatched 47 Four-eyed Turtles, which are so named for the distinctive eye-like markings on the back of their heads. Found only in mountainous streams and ponds in Southeast Asian, this species has been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 2000, thanks to over-collection in the wild and habitat loss.

“These turtles fall under a Species Survival Plan that I manage,” says Hughes, who also oversees a program managing the closely related, critically endangered Beal’s Four-eyed Turtle (Sacalia bealei). “Increasing their population is a long-term goal, so every hatchling is a step further in the right direction.”

Visitors to the Aquarium can see adorable examples of Four-eyed and Beal’s Four-eyed Turtles in the hatchling nursery of River Journey’s Turtles of the World gallery.

But tiny turtles aren’t the only recent arrivals at the Aquarium.

On June 24, the Aquarium celebrated the arrival of a Gentoo Penguin chick in the Penguins’ Rock gallery. It began the herculean task of leaving its egg two days earlier on June 22, when animal care specialists first saw its beak and heard its squeaking vocalizations. This fuzzy newcomer is the offspring of  Flower (mom) and Blue (dad), a newly minted pair of veteran parents.

During a routine veterinary checkup the day after it hatched, the chick weighed 132 grams — about 4.5 ounces. After a month of attentive care by its parents and close observation by Aquarium staff, the formerly tiny, peeping ball of fluff now weighs 2.4 kilograms (5.3 pounds), an increase of more than 1,800 percent. If a human child were to grow at the same rate, a newborn weighing seven pounds at birth would tip the scales at 127 pounds four weeks later. 

Size isn’t the only thing that’s bigger about the chick, though, says Loribeth Lee, the Aquarium’s senior aviculturist.

“For the first two weeks, it was pretty mellow, just looking around and studying everything,” Lee says. “Once two weeks hit, though, it developed a strong personality and loves to yell and slap at anything that moves too close!”

At the moment, the chick is still being fed by its parents, but Aquarists plan to begin hand-feeding it solid food in the next two weeks. Visitors to the Aquarium can observe the chick in its nest, which is encircled by clear acrylic panels, for the next six to seven weeks, when it will be old enough to join the rest of the colony. Its gender will remain unknown, pending the results of a routine blood test in November.

To keep tabs on the Aquarium’s Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins, digital visitors can watch a live video feed of the Penguins’ Rock gallery at tnaqua.org/live/penguins-rock/.

Elsewhere in the Ocean Journey building, a trio of juvenile Long-spine Porcupinefish (Diodon holocanthus) are being raised in a culturing facility near the Aquarium’s Secret Reef exhibit.

Despite only being as large as a thumbnail, these two-month-old pufferfish are dead ringers for their round-bodied, spine-covered parents. Under the care of aquarists and a steady diet of brine shrimp, they’re gradually increasing in size like balloons inflating in slow motion.

Once large enough — likely this fall —they’ll be placed on display in the Aquarium’s new larval fish exhibit in the Ocean Journey building.

The fish are the offspring of five adults housed in an off-campus care facility. Eggs collected from this facility were taken to the Aquarium, which has been conducting pioneering work into raising marine fish in-house since early 2017. Eventually, the adults will be brought to Ocean Journey to join the bustling aquatic community of the Secret Reef exhibit.

Whatever their age, there’s no denying the charisma Long-spine Porcupinefish exude, says Senior Aquarist Kyle McPheeters.

“These are definitely one of the cutest fish we work with, especially as babies,” he says. “But even the adults have a really outgoing personality and a very expressive face.”

Critically Injured Hawksbill Turtle Swimming Towards Recovery In Sydney’s Animal Rescue Centre

Sydney, Wednesday 17 February 2021: Small, covered in barnacles and fighting for her life – that was the way a young and critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle was found by SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium staff late last year after receiving a tip-off from the public.

The 4kg turtle, named Avalon after the beach she was seen floating off in NSW, was barely responsive in mid-November when the team picked her up and rushed her back to the aquarium’s Animal Rescue Centre for emergency treatment. Fortunately, she is now on the road to recovery and there are hopes that one day she will swim back into the wild.

Avalon on the road to recovery in January 2021 - 4

“When we first saw her, we didn’t think she would pull through,” said Kellie Carmody, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium’s on-site Vet Nurse. “She was in quite a critical state and it was really important that we moved quickly so that we would be able to turn her health around in a positive direction.”

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Baby boom for the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle

Taronga’s zoo-based population of the critically endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle has received a significant boost with the hatching of 35 turtle babies this year.

Endemic to the Bellinger River on the mid north coast of NSW, this species of short-necked freshwater turtle was almost completely wiped out in 2015 when a novel virus infiltrated the river.

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A NSW Government emergency response team was formed to investigate and coordinate the rescue of a group of healthy turtles to establish an insurance population. Taronga is working closely with NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE), Western Sydney University and Symbio Wildlife Park to save this species.

DPIE scientists managed to retrieve 16 healthy turtles from the river in 2015, which were later relocated to a special quarantine breeding facility at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

“This is our fourth successful breeding season of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle, and we now have nearly 100 of these turtles living at our quarantine facility at Taronga Zoo,” says Adam Skidmore, a Taronga reptile keeper who cares for the species. “The hatchlings are doing really well – eating lots and growing – and we are really happy with their development.”

“During the breeding season we check the nests daily,’ says Adam. “We then remove the eggs, weigh and measure them and place them in our incubator. We then check on them daily and wait for them to hatch, which can take up to 70 days.”

The Bellinger River Snapping Turtle recovery project is coordinated by the NSW’s Government’s Saving our Species (SoS) program. The project aims to release the healthy turtles bred at Taronga back to the Bellinger River. Threatened species officers from SoS have coordinated two release events to date, and are tracking and monitoring the progress of the turtles now living back in the Bellinger River.

“We have so far released 20 snapping turtles back into their natural environment and we are delighted to say their survival rate has been extremely high,” said SoS Threatened Species Officer Gerry McGilvray.

“This species could have been wiped out if not for the rapid response from Saving our Species and its partners. Releasing animals bred in captivity at Taronga represents a big step on the path to securing this species in the wild.”