Keepers at Bristol Zoo waited 12 years but their patience finally paid off when not one but three keeled box turtles hatched within the space of just six days.
The tiny rare turtles, no bigger than a 50 pence piece in size and weighing just 12.5 grams, hatched after three months’ incubation. Fully grown they will weigh up to 1 kg and the vivid red flashes found around the bottom of their shells will turn to black.
Keeled box turtles get their unusual name from the three raised ridges along their upper shell and are unlike other turtles because they burrow into soil during the day and only come out to forage for food at night.
The turtles are under threat in their native China, India and Vietnam due to the pet trade and deforestation. Bristol Zoo is now the first zoo in Europe to have successfully bred keeled box turtles. There are now just 15 adults in zoos across Europe and only 49 in the world, of which six are in Bristol.
Adam Davis, senior keeper of reptiles and amphibians, has been involved in the breeding programme for keeled box turtles since coming to Bristol Zoo seven years ago.
He said: “We have been trying to breed this species throughout the time I’ve been here and even prior to that. To have finally cracked it is quite a relief.”
Adam checks the turtles’ weight and measures their shells regularly to make sure they are developing well, but will not be able to establish the sex of the new turtles for up to five years.
For information on visiting Bristol Zoo go to www.bristolzoo.org.uk