Must See To Appreciate!

This week, the zoo welcomed an amazing new addition with the hatching of a Spiny hill turtle. These turtles are critically endangered in the wild, and this hatchling has an incredible story. Its parents were illegally removed from the wild for human consumption and were stuffed in foam crates, along with hundreds of other turtles for export. Before customs could confiscate them, many of the crates collapsed, suffocating the animals inside. The turtles that survived the ordeal were sent to appropriate facilities for rehabilitation. My zoo received five spiny hill turtles, and were the first facility to successfully breed any of the animals from this confiscation. Since then, several more babies have made their appearance.

Heosemys spinosa, the spiny hill turtle. It will spend a few days on damp paper towels as its umbilicus closes. Then it will be ready to go for a swim.

It looks enormous, doesn’t it? Here’s a not-so-close-up:

It's not as big as it looks, is it?

So here’s the really amazing part. Brad, the Lead Keeper, took some measurements.

Every neonate is weighed and measured.

This baby has a maximum carapace (shell) length and width of 63mm. That’s about 2 1/2 inches. Hang onto your hat. The egg shell itself measured a mere 36mm.  You read that right. The baby is almost twice as wide as the egg it was living in. How is that even possible? Like this:

The curve of the carapace (top shell) is incredible, but check out the wrinkles in the plastron (bottom shell)! I love how it has its little nose pulled in. Its face reminds me of Homer Simpson. And those bumpy things on either side are its legs.

And I thought we were cramped when we lived in 900sq ft with two kids!


special thanks to sj for creating the watermark.


33 thoughts on “Must See To Appreciate!

  1. It took me ALL DAY to get back to comment! SO BUSY ARGH!

    I want all the turtles. They are the best. Look at that little face! And his little poky shell!

    This is just the happiest post ever. I grinned like a lunatic when this popped up this morning. YAY FOR TURTLES!

  2. BC: I agree with the previous commenter–you do have the coolest job! Whenever I read your blog, I get a mini science lesson. I love it! Keep the pictures coming.

    • I’ve gotten permission from my zoo to do a book using photos of their hatchlings. I love teaching people about the animals. I’m working on deciding format and storyboard right now. And incredible video footage is coming! If it’s as incredible as it looks in my camera.

  3. Hey…Angie Z from ChildhoodRelived sent me here seeing my turtle pics. Love your post! We are always on the lookout for laying turtles near our creek, though our varieties are not nearly as exciting as the Spiny Hill. Brilliant photo of him trying to hide from you in his egg shell. My heart aches for the victims of illegal-trade-gone-bad, but how fantastic that you get to experience that.

      • Looking forward to seeing it. We were just at the Cheyenne Zoo in CO Springs a couple of weeks ago. We spent a lot of time in the reptile house helping zoo staff prepare meals for a very old tortoise (veggies) and some Boreal Toads (live crickets). Right up our alley!

        My last post has a link to my critters album. It includes our experience hatching a clutch of red-eared sliders at our home.

  4. That’s incredible!!!!!!!!!!! Wow I really can’t get my head around how the little guy managed to cope with being scrunched up in that tiny egg.

A penny for your thoughts! And by penny, I mean a warm-fuzzy in your heart.

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