ZSL London Zoo breeds tortoise on verge of extinction
Monday 6 March 2006
ZSL London Zoo is delighted at the recent birth of a rare Egyptian tortoise, one of the most endangered land tortoise species in the Mediterranean region and a species difficult to breed in captivity.
Almost extinct in the wild due to habitat destruction and the pet trade, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists the Egyptian tortoise as a highly protected species.
ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are two of only a few zoos currently breeding this species of tortoise as a result of the strict conditions this tortoise needs in order to survive.
Dr. Ian Stephen, Senior Keeper Herpetology at ZSL London Zoo said:
'These tortoises need a lot of space as well as hot, dry temperatures and high levels of ultra-violet light.
Without exposure to ultra-violet light their bodies can't metabolise the calcium from their diets, leading to many health problems and almost certain death.
At ZSL London Zoo we have a special juvenile rearing room where the temperature and lighting in individual enclosures is carefully controlled.'
ZSL London Zoo currently houses eight Egyptian tortoises on display, however the new baby tortoise will be kept out of sight for another year until it is old enough to join others in the group.
Native to Egypt and Libya, this species of tortoise is mostly found in low humidity desert regions, feeding on a vegetarian diet.