Keepers at Bristol Zoo 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 in the Zoo’s Reptile House.
Reptile keeper Laura Cosgrove photographed the moment she broke through her shell but it took 24 hours for this tiny creature to emerge fully.
Bristol Zoo’s curator of reptile and amphibians, Tim Skelton looks after the captive breeding programme (a European studbook) for this species and manages almost 300 African pancake tortoises in excess of 50 institutions across Europe.
The tortoise, which has not yet been named, hatched after almost 6 months of incubation at 31C. She brings the total number of pancake tortoises in the Reptile House at Bristol Zoo to 11.
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. She is currently being kept off show in a quiet area while she is still so small.
African pancake tortoises have been 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 scrubland of Kenya and Tanzania. Its flattened shell allows it to hide from predators in rock crevices.