Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team
Date: November 2, 2021 11:45 pm
Photo Credit: ZSL London Zoo
ZSL London Zoo have celebrated a milestone in the conservation of the big-headed turtle with the hatching of three juveniles. Their parents were brought to London Zoo after being rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.
Four adult big-headed turtles arrived at ZSL London Zoo after smugglers attempted to illegally import them in to Canada They were labelled as toys.
Luckily these four individuals were found and brought to ZSL London Zoo where expert herpetologists began caring for them.
As a highly territorial species the four turtles each received their own custom-built habitat. The herpetologists then began to introduce them slowly and one pair produced eggs which hatched last month.
ZSL reptile keeper Kimberley Carter said: “We had the expertise at ZSL London Zoo to give this solitary species the specialist care they individually needed, and we’re pleased that this dedicated work has paid off with these three hatchlings.”
The hatchlings were named for three colleagues from the Asian turtle Program in Vietnam. They are known as Ha, Thuy and Tim after Thuy Thu Nguyen, Tim McCormack and Ha Hoang, who is also a ZSL EDGE Fellow.
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Big-headed turtles are aptly named with their head being so large that it can not retract in to their shell. Instead these reptiles are covered by armor plating across the entire body and a sharp beak to attack predators.
Kimberley added: “Big-headed turtles may not be conventionally cute to most people - with their oversized heads and long, whip-like tails - but they represent a vitally important and unique branch of the evolutionary tree and have much to teach us about animal adaptions. There is literally no other species like them on earth.”
These reptiles are native to Asia where they have unfortunately become victims of the illegal wildlife trade for pets and meat.
ZSL’s curator of reptiles and amphibians, Ben Tapley, explained: “ZSL works with the Asian Turtle Program of Indo Myanmar Conservation, who help to rehabilitate the hundreds of big-headed turtles seized by local authorities and housed at the Turtle Conservation Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.
“This collaborative project has implemented a vital health and genetic screening protocol at the centre, helping to safeguard wildlife at reintroduction sites from the spread of any pathogens that may be carried by the rescued reptiles – this has resulted in more than 220 rescued turtles having been safely released into protected areas over the past two years.
“Our international team is also working with local communities to help them understand how vitally important these amazing animals are, so that together we can bring them back from the brink.”
Currently the three hatchlings are being cared for behind the scenes. You can see one of the original rescued parents at the zoo's historic Reptile House.
A big-headed turtle hatchling born at ZSL London Zoo
Photo Credit: ZSL London Zoo