I’ve officially been taking care of tortoises in the Herpetology department at my zoo for two years now. Over that time, I have to admit I’ve found some favorites.
Ploughshare tortoise. One of the rarest animals in the entire world. There are fewer than 400 left in the wild. Their carapaces are etched to discourage theft. It does not hurt the tortoise.
Bog turtles. This is one of my zoo’s special long-term projects. Actually, any tortoise breeding program is a long-term project, since it can take 10-25 years for them to get to breeding size.
Spiny Hill turtle hatchling. The hatchlings are always my favorites. I love how squished up it is. After hatching, this turtle unfolded into its flatter and more proper proportions.
For 2 years, my favorite adult tortoises have been the pancake tortoises, Malacochersus tornieri.
Please excuse the weird green color. Without a flash, my camera likes to break down the light from the ultraviolet lamps into greens. Pretty, right? Click to enlarge and really get a look at that face!
They are unbelievably cool. Instead of being rock-hard like other tortoise shells, the shell of the pancake tortoise is rather spongy.In the wilds of eastern Africa, they defend themselves by wedging tightly into narrow crevices in rock. Their conservation status in the wild is listed as Vulnerable, which means that their numbers are okay at the moment, but sudden loss of habitat will leave them in serious jeopardy. Without the rocky terrain, they cannot survive.
For two years, I have been wishing and hoping for babies from our two pairs to no avail. The females haven’t been the most maternal and have scrambled the eggs before they could be retrieved. So frustrating! Until now.
Last week was the best week ever. Within 24 hours, I finished my novel, hit a major blog milestone, and got to meet someone new and precious. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Short Stack.
Hatching is serious business. And kind of messy. We have two pairs of adults – a pretty pair, and a less attractive pair. Can you guess the parents of this one by looking at the egg? Click to enlarge
This species is interesting when it comes to hatching, too. The incubation range is anywhere from 99 days to about 237 days. That’s a huge range. Other species tend to be a little more predictable. This guy (gal?) hatched at the lower end of the range, which is what caught me by surprise. Personally, I wasn’t expecting Short Stack to make an appearance until April. I do love surprises!
See that tiny white crumb on the end of its nose? That’s called an egg tooth, and it’s what a baby reptile uses to shred the egg from the inside when it’s time to hatch. Let me know if you don’t see it. I’ll show it to you in the next post.
Here’s some more exciting news. There’s another egg in the incubator, this one from the other pair. It has been candled and seems to be developing well.
So that’s my week. What exciting things are going on in your world?