Baby tortoises spring a surprise at wildlife park

Swindon Advertiser: The four newly-hatched red-footed tortoises at Cotswold Wildlife Park The four newly-hatched red-footed tortoises at Cotswold Wildlife Park

REPTILE keepers at Cotswold Wildlife Park have discovered four newly hatched red-footed tortoises while carrying out maintenance duties in their former enclosure.

The newborns’ parents had recently been moved to another zoological collection as part of a breeding programme. Having laid the eggs prior to their departure, the reptile team were unaware that four tiny tortoises were about to be born.

Jamie Craig, Curator at Cotswold Wildlife Park, said: “The baby tortoises were quite a surprise for the reptile team. Normally eggs won’t develop unless removed to an incubator as conditions for hatching need to be perfect and this is difficult when eggs are deposited in the gravel. However, all the youngsters are doing very well and are completely unaware of the drama their arrival created.”

In the wild, it is common for these tortoises, also known as geochelone carbonaria, to bury their eggs deep in the sand and then abandon them. So, while the find was surprising, their behaviour at the park was no different to how it would be in the natural world. In fact, during the nesting season, the female does not incubate the eggs at all. They are well-disguised to avoid predators. She will bury the brittle eggs and around one hundred and 50 days later, they will hatch. They are completely independent from the moment they’re born.

The new hatchlings are less than two inches in length, weigh approximately thirty grams each and have just gone on show to visitors in the recently refurbished Reptile House. These South American tortoises will eventually grow to fifteen inches in length and have a life expectancy of 50 years.



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