Endangered spiny hill turtle hatches for first time at ZSL London Zoo

Spiny hill turtle at ZSL London Zoo

A tiny turtle made a timely debut last week, becoming the first ever of its kind to hatch at ZSL London Zoo – just in time for World Turtle Day.

Last Monday (15 May) zookeepers captured the cracking moment the spiny hill turtle came out of its shell on a time lapse camera, after keeping a close eye on the egg during its 136 day incubation period.

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, which is assessed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, weighed a tiny 33g at birth and measured just 61mm, although it will eventually grow to approximately 27cm in size. 

The unusual spiny shell spikes that give the turtles their name are used to deter predators and provide camouflage among their forest floor homes. 

“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.”

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