Monday, April 20, 2015

Baby Pancake Tortoise Born At Como Zoo!

On April 4, 2015, Como Zoo hatched their first pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri).  The egg was laid this past October and was incubated for 170 days at 88 degrees F to hopefully produce female offspring (many reptiles have gender specified incubation). This hatchling is about the size of a golf ball and is a perfect miniature replica of her parents, who are only 6 inches in length and weigh about a pound each.

Pancake tortoises are native to the Eastern African countries of Kenya and Tanzania.  Unlike most tortoises, the shell of the pancake tortoise is made up of overlapping scutes that have large gaps in between, allowing this small tortoise the ability to squeeze into tight crevices to avoid predators. They are remarkable climbers and use their shell flexibility, agility and speed to escape predators instead of retreating into their shell like most tortoises.  

Due to low reproduction rates, native habitat being transformed into agricultural land and over exploitation for the pet trade, the pancake tortoise is considered a vulnerable species.  In the early 1980’s, Kenya banned the export of this tortoise and they are legally protected in both Tanzania and Kenya.  

Because of this vulnerable status, the pancake tortoise is part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) which is a cooperative captive breeding program among zoos worldwide. Como Zoo participates in the SSP and this hatchling is the first offspring since receiving two females from TSA (Turtle Survival Alliance) on a breeding loan in 2012.  

Como is hopeful that more baby tortoises will hatch in the future to do their part to ensure the survival of this unique tortoise species.

-Zookeeper Ruthie

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hopping into Hibernation for a Spring Fling

It is that time of year again at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory where our collection of critically endangered Wyoming Toads go into an artificial Hibernation for the season.   Four pairs of adults toads get to slumber in a mixture of sand and mulch in a state of the art Hibernaculum in a bio-secure behind the scenes room of Como Zoo. These eight toads will be hibernated for approximately 50 days in a gradually cooled state to help simulate natural pre-breeding conditions. Once the toads are awoken from hibernation by gradually increasing the temperature, they will be introduced in pairs to breed for the season. If successful, each individual pair can lay up to 7,000 eggs at one time. These eggs, eventually hatching into tadpoles, will be shipped out to Laramie , Wyoming and back into the wild! This is just one of the amazing Conservation Projects Como Park Zoo and Conservatory are involved with annually.

Since  2010, Como Zoo  has participated in the  Wyoming Toad Recovery Program and Annual Species Survival Plan Meeting and field work. I not only pair the toads for breeding in-house for Como Zoo; but also travel to  Laramie, WY annually. I assist with field surveys of the reintroduction of the Wyoming Toad at multiple sites at Mortenson Lake and surrounding lakes. Data secured will assist program leaders in gauging the success or failure of current practices allowing them to make adjustment to the program as needed. This annual surveying of this site and is a continuation of the efforts to establish a self-sustaining wild population of Bufo baxteri in North America. Como Zoo has released over 8,700 tadpoles and toadlets at these safe harbors since 2010.

-Zookeeper Bree