Tiny endangered pancake tortoise born at West Midland Safari Park
Keepers at West Midland Safari Park are celebrating the birth of a 'critically endangered' tiny pancake tortoise.
The youngster hatched from its egg earlier this month and is currently about the size of a bottle top.
Although the tortoise's gender is yet to be identified, keepers have named it Hartley. Hartley is the second success of the Safari Park's breeding programme for pancake tortoises, following the hatching of older brother Finn, who became an internet sensation in 2017, due to his minute size.
Deputy head keeper of the park's Discovery Trail, Steve Slater, said: "When Finn, our first baby pancake tortoise, hatched in 2017, the conservation status of his species was classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"Since then, the IUCN have reviewed the status and have found that the population of the species is drastically declining, so now list the species as ‘critically endangered’.
"The wild population has decreased by 80 per cent in 30 years, mainly due to habitat destruction and over-exploitation for the pet trade. Our tortoises are part of a European Breeding Programme, for which we work with other European zoos in a vow to support tortoise conservation in a regulated and ethical environment.
"Although the new hatchling is teeny-tiny, Hartley is already a big part of saving his species.”
Hartley's appearance has been eagerly anticipated by keepers at West Midland Safari Park, as pancake tortoises have a very slow reproductive rate and then the eggs have a very lengthy incubation period – Hartley's egg was laid in January and took 178 days to develop and hatch.
Pancake tortoises are so-called because of their flat shells. Unlike other tortoises, their shells are flexible, making them lighter and speedier too. Hartley now brings the number of pancake tortoises at the Safari Park to five.
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