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Tiny endangered tortoise arrives at West Midland Safari

Keepers at West Midland Safari Park have announced the arrival of a ‘critically endangered’ tiny pancake tortoise.

The minuscule youngster, named Hartley, hatched from its egg on the 10th of July and brings the number of pancake tortoises at the Park to five.

About the size of a bottle-top, Hartley is the second success in the breeding programme for pancake tortoises at the Park, following the hatching of older half-brother ‘Finn’, who became an internet sensation in 2017, due to his minute size.

Pancake tortoises are so-called because of their flat shells. Unlike other tortoises, their shells are flexible, making them lighter and speedier too. However, the future of the pancake tortoise is uncertain in the wild.

Deputy Head Keeper of the Discovery Trail, Steve Slater, explains, “When Finn, our first baby pancake tortoise, hatched in 2017, the conservation status of his species was classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since then, the IUCN has reviewed the status and have found that the population of the species is drastically declining, so now list the species as ‘critically endangered’.” 

He continued, “The wild population has decreased by 80% in 30 years, mainly due to habitat destruction and over-exploitation for the pet trade. Our tortoises are part of a European Breeding Programme, for which we work with other European zoos in a vow to support tortoise conservation in a regulated and ethical environment. Although the new hatchling is teeny-tiny, Hartley is already a big part of saving his species.”

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