New home for Critically Endangered turtles at ZSL London Zoo

Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo have embraced their artistic sides and designed a brand new exhibit for Critically Endangered Annam leaf turtles that is worthy of any Hollywood film set.

Two Annam turtles swim happily in their new home - an exhibit designed to look like a restaurant's kitchen demonstrating the species' plight in the wild

Designed to replicate a restaurant kitchen, with the turtle pool resembling a kitchen sink, a bubbling soup pot and woks hanging on the wall, the inventive set-design actually paints a very sombre picture.

Originating from Vietnam, Annam leaf turtles are considered a tasty delicacy, and due to severe over-hunting for the restaurant trade and habitat loss, the species is now classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN and facing the real threat of extinction. 

Reaching up to 30cm in length, the turtles have striking looking striped necks and faces. The beautiful creatures stand out in their kitchen-themed enclosure and keepers hope the glaring juxtaposition will hit a chord with zoo visitors.

An Annam leaf turtle, with yellow and green striped face, basks in the light

Team leader of the Reptile House at ZSL London Zoo, Ben Tapley said: “We’ve gone to town on the new Annam leaf turtle exhibit here at ZSL London Zoo, as we want our visitors to really understand the threats facing these animals.

“Providing a great habitat for these beautiful turtles, with water for them to swim in and a secluded nesting area hidden behind a carefully positioned wok, the creative exhibit tells a serious story.

“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. Breeding programmes and zoo populations like ours here at ZSL London Zoo, are becoming increasingly important in guaranteeing the existence of these animals for the future.”

Book to visit ZSL London Zoo and the Reptile House here

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