The newest babies at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium may be small, but they bring big hope for one of the most endangered species on the planet.
On November 1 and 3, reptile keepers at the Zoo’s Shores region successfully hatched two rare yellow-headed temple turtles (Heosemys annandalii), the first ever hatched in an indoor zoological environment. The breakthrough is critical in efforts to boost the numbers of temple turtles, which are facing extinction, according to a release from the zoo.
Keepers note that the two hatchlings are “very active” and “very healthy.” They are being cared for in behind-the-scenes habitats as they continue to grow stronger. Right now, the hatchlings are about the size of a racquetball and weigh approximately 80 grams–the same weight as a small tomato. They will grow to be up to about 2 feet long and weigh about 35 pounds.
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These two turtles were the only ones to survive out of their mother’s nest. Of five eggs, one turtle hatched on its own, and the care team helped another break out of its shell when it was experiencing some difficulties. Two other eggs did not contain viable hatchlings, and the fifth egg did not hatch.
“Our team is extremely proud of hatching these turtles, as well as being able to do so inside the Columbus Zoo’s Reptile House,” said Becky Ellsworth, Curator of the Zoo’s Shores region. “This is a wonderful achievement as our Animal Care staff has been able to learn more information about this rare and important species, contributing significant knowledge to the zoological community working to help protect these turtles.”