Keepers at Africa Alive wildlife park have welcomed some tiny new arrivals.

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A clutch of five baby leopard tortoises have hatched out of their eggs and, at just a few weeks old, some are smaller than a 50p.

The little tortoises currently weigh just 1.5ozs and, with fully grown specimens tipping the scales at anywhere between 30lbs and 100lbs, the minute hatchlings have a lot of growing to do.

However, as their life expectancy is between 80 and 100 years, they have plenty of time to do it in.

Leopard tortoises are the fourth largest tortoise in the world and the second largest on mainland Africa.

They can reach carapace sizes of more than 2ft in length. However, most specimens usually reach carapace lengths of 15 to 18ins and males are sometimes larger than females.

The park has been successfully keeping leopard tortoises since 1996, when the existing adults arrived as youngsters after being confiscated by Customs & Excise at Heathrow airport. The last time this species was bred at the park was in 2007.

The eggs were laid in a sand nest site provided specifically for this purpose and were artificially incubated by the animal keeping staff at the park. Correct temperature and humidity are critical in the incubation process and must be just right if the embryo is to develop normally.

The baby tortoise is ready to emerge from the egg after 150 days.

From the time when they initially pierce the egg, the hatching process usually takes between eight and 24 hours.

The first small fracture is to permit air breathing to begin. Prior to this time the embryo’s oxygen demand has been met via permeation through the egg shell.

This first small hole is gradually enlarged over the next few hours.

The hatchling may then sit in the egg for some time whilst its yolk sac is absorbed.

Until this happens, the hatchling remains especially vulnerable as its movement is seriously impaired.

The five tortoises hatched out at Africa Alive between November 28 and December 4.

They are herbivores and in the wild they primarily eat grasses as well as succulent plants, toadstools, and fruit. They also eat old bones for calcium.






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