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Three Endangered Big-Headed Turtles Hatch At London Zoo

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Three Endangered Big-Headed Turtles Hatch At London Zoo

Three critically endangered big-headed turtles have hatched at ZSL London Zoo after their parents were rescued from an illegal wildlife trade a few years ago.

Smugglers tried to illegally import the two parent turtles into Canada by labelling them as toys, after a failed attempt to smuggle them in 2018.

In total, four turtles were rescued - made up of two males and two females.

Having settled, the rescue resulted in the birth of three new hatchlings last month.

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Credit: Jam Press
Credit: Jam Press

The rescued turtles were at first kept in separate custom-built enclosures due to their naturally territorial nature but after recently being slowly introduced to each other, one pair laid the eggs that hatched last month.

ZSL reptile keeper Kimberley Carter said: "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.

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"There is literally no other species like them on earth."

Credit: Jam Press
Credit: Jam Press
Credit: Jam Press
Credit: Jam Press

ZSL's curator of reptiles and amphibians, Ben Tapley, added: "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.

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"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."

Credit: Jam Press
Credit: Jam Press
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The baby turtles have been named after the three of those involved in the Asian Turtle Program - Thuy Thu Nguyen, Tim McCormack and Ha Hoang, who is also a ZSL EDGE Fellow.

Ha said: "Having these turtles hatch at the Zoo not only adds to the global numbers of this unique species, but allows us to learn more about them and their breeding habits - vital information shared between colleagues that informs the turtles' rescue and rehabilitation."

Ha, Thuy and Tim are too small to be seen by visitors yet but they can still spot one of the original rescued turtles at the zoo's historic Reptile House.

Kimberley concluded: "These turtles have a lot to teach our visitors about the illegal wildlife trade as well as the many other dangers facing reptiles and amphibians in the wild."

Featured Image Credit: Jam Press

Topics: Wildlife, London

Anish Vij
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