Tuesday 25 July 2017

Tiny pancake tortoise hatches at Bristol Zoo

The tiny African pancake tortoise pushes out of its egg (Bristol Zoo Gardens/PA Wire)
The tiny African pancake tortoise pushes out of its egg (Bristol Zoo Gardens/PA Wire)
The baby African pancake tortoise, roughly the size of a 50p coin, hatched two weeks ago in the reptile house at Bristol Zoo (Bristol Zoo Gardens/PA Wire)

Zoo keepers have captured the moment a tiny pancake tortoise began hatching from its shell.

The baby African pancake tortoise, roughly the size of a 50p coin, hatched two weeks ago in the reptile house at Bristol Zoo.

Curator of reptiles Tim Skelton was on-hand to photograph the moment the tortoise broke through its shell.

"It's brilliant to witness the hatching of any reptile, and I was lucky enough to have my camera ready to capture the moment this little female tortoise emerged into the world," he said.

Mr Skelton looks after the captive breeding programme - the "studbook" - for this species and manages more than 200 African pancake tortoises in more than 50 institutions across Europe.

The tortoise, which has been named Lucy, hatched after four-and-a-half months of incubation at 31C. She is the ninth African pancake tortoise at Bristol Zoo and joins four adults and four juveniles.

Keepers feed her tiny pieces of dandelion and chicory leaves and she is now living in a warm and humid enclosure to replicate the species' natural habitat. Lucy is currently being kept off show in a quiet area while she is still so small.

African pancake tortoises are classified as 'vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Their numbers in the wild are threatened by over-collection for the pet trade and habitat loss due to clearance for agriculture.

The species is found in the savannahs and rocky scrublands of Kenya and Tanzania. Its flattened shell allows it to hide from predators in rock crevices.

Press Association

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