Tiny turtle hatches

Bristol Zoo Gardens has successfully bred a tiny black marsh turtle – the first in a decade.

The 182-year-old Zoo was one of the first in Europe to hatch one of these turtles back in 2004.

Now after almost three months in an incubator kept at a steady 27C this latest one has emerged from its shell.

The jet-black turtle is just 5cm (2 ins) long – about the same length as a fun size Mars bar - but just days after it arrived it has already enjoyed its first meal of a small worm.

It is currently in quarantine but will soon be joining its fellow turtles on show at the Zoo.

Adam Davis, senior keeper of reptiles at Bristol Zoo Gardens, said: “It is doing really well. These turtles are listed as vulnerable and are part of a European breeding programme.”

This tiny black marsh turtle is descended from a group of 10,000 rescued turtles that were destined for human consumption in the illegal Chinese food trade. They were confiscated from a ship in Hong Kong in 2001. Bristol Zoo Gardens was involved in a rescue effort, nursing turtles back to health.

Tim Skelton, now curator of reptiles at Bristol Zoo, played an important role in the transportation and re-homing of 68 turtles.

Black marsh turtles are known as the ‘smiling terrapin’ because they have an upwardly curved jaw line.

When fully grown they are around 20cm (8 inches) in length but that can take more than eight years.

They are classified as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red list.

Their numbers have declined because they are caught for food. They have also suffered from a loss of habitat.

Fishing has affected their numbers as well  reducing food availability or a result of electric fishing devices which harms turtles and other aquatic species in the vicinity .


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