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

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