Michael Ogle, our assistant curator of herpetology here at Knoxville Zoo, is kind of a big deal in the world of tortoise conservation, although he is far too modest to ever admit it. He's been a key part of our success breeding some of the rarest tortoises in the world, often making us the first zoo to do so. He is particularly knowledgeable when it comes to species found in the country of Madagascar, which led to the invitation from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to travel to southern Madagascar last month to work with some of his Malagasy counterparts to help locals care for confiscated tortoises.
Tag Archives: astrochelys radiata
I admit it. I know I’m not supposed to, but of all the little ones, I have a favorite. Don’t tell the others, please.
I know that all the babies are adorable, but this one has a special place in my heart. The population of the radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) has dropped by half in the last ten years. They have been wiped out of most of their range, so captive breeding programs are of critical importance. She’s the second one my zoo has hatched.
I call this one “she” because she was incubated as a female. Many reptiles have what is called temperature dependent sex determination. When the egg is first laid, the embryo within has no gender at all. The temperature at which it is incubated has an impact on whether they develop into boys or girls. Keepers can often produce the gender they need by altering the temperature at which they incubate the eggs. With this species of tortoise, higher temperatures usually yield more females. Lower temperatures tend to create males.
Here she is with her older sibling who was hatched in July. I have no idea whether the older one is male or female. Its egg incubated outdoors for a bit, so it was subject to unknown temperatures. Radiographs in a few years can tell if we’ve got a boy or a girl.
One thing I really enjoy about this baby is her personality. She is all go. I have no good recent pictures of her because she won’t sit still. From a biological standpoint, her curiosity isn’t a good thing because she might get eaten, but in captivity, it’s positively delightful.
I’ll be back on Monday full of my tales of adventure. And hopefully with some new pictures. Have a great weekend!
If you recall, this post left you with a cliffhanger, and I’m not one to leave you hanging forever.
Here’s a picture of one of the parents.
The new baby is a bit smaller than its folks.
And now the update you’ve all been waiting for! Can I get a drumroll, please? If you read this post, you know my supervisor at the zoo has been working to raise $2000 to buy desks and chairs for a school in Madagascar. Thanks to readers who forwarded the post all over the internet, we met our goal. In five days. Our total stands at $2443, and all of the money goes to the school. Give yourselves a hand! Thanks to everyone who donated or shared links. Your help will have a direct impact on the lives of 100 children in Madagascar. The baby tortoise featured in this blog is the same tortoise species that the children’s parents are helping to save, which bookends this story beautifully.
And I leave you with one more tortoise belly button.