Our newest zoo baby may be small, but tiny creatures are a big deal for the zoo keepers at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Say “hello” to our brand new black-breasted leaf turtle in the Indonesian Rain Forest!
This teensy terrapin is almost three weeks old and weighs just over six grams (about the same weight as a quarter). Black-breasted leaf turtles are an endangered species managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which makes this a very important birth. Zoo keepers are caring for the hatchling behind-the-scenes and monitoring its progress carefully.
Dave Messmann, who works with turtles and other zoo reptiles, related the cautious enthusiasm surrounding the baby animal, “We waited for two weeks before inviting anyone to take pictures. We wanted to be sure that the hatchling was thriving before introducing it. We’re excited about hatching an endangered species and we’re monitoring this one very closely.”
Click on the photos to enlarge (additional text below):
Why are black-breasted leaf turtles endangered? It all comes down to habitat destruction and over-collection. Black-breasted leaf turtles are native to Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam and Southern China. They are used in Traditional Asian Medicine, and are often sold as pets. These turtles’ unique facial expression and small size make them particularly attractive within the pet trade. However, Messmann contends that this endangered species might not be as easy to rear as people assume. “Turtles require a lot of care and proper nutrition throughout their lives. At the zoo we give them a specific diet and document their care. If people don’t feed and nurture them properly their shells can become deformed.” The diet to which Messmann refers consists of fruit, vegetables, worms and crickets.
Black-breasted leaf turtles live up to 20 years but only reach an average length of five inches, making them one of the smallest turtles in the world.
Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.