Vietnamese box turtles bred successfully at Bristol Zoo

Rare Vietnamese box turtle shown off by keepers at Bristol zoo

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Critically endangered Vietnamese box turtles have been bred successfully for the first time in a British zoo.

A baby Vietnamese box turtle, which is one of the world's rarest turtles, was born at Bristol Zoo in July and is now roughly the size of a matchbox.

Reptile curator, Tim Skelton, said it was a 40-year "career highlight" as the species was very difficult to breed.

The youngster, called Vernon, is being kept in a climate-controlled room and hand fed chopped worms by keepers.

He currently weighs 28g and measures around 5cm (2in) long.

'Boggy tank'

Vietnamese Flowerback Box Turtle

The baby Vietnamese box turtle being held beside its father
  • Scientific name: Cuora bourreti
  • Continent: Asia
  • Diet: Aquatic plants, molluscs, crustaceans, worms, fungi, fallen fruits
  • Habitat: Shallow swamps, streams, ponds, flooded rice paddies
  • Conservation status: Critically endangered
  • Called a box turtle because the animal can box up completely within its shell

Source: Bristol Zoo

"Not a lot is known about this species so we can learn an awful lot from this baby to improve our chances of breeding more in future," said Mr Skelton.

"These are secretive animals so we are keeping it in a warm, humid and quiet room with a constant temperature, in a boggy tank to replicate its natural habitat where it can burrow among the soil and leaves."

As well as being a UK first, Bristol Zoo is also only the second in Europe to have bred the species, with success also having been seen at a zoo in Germany.

The zoo is part of a European breeding programme with private turtle experts and now has a total of seven Vietnamese box turtles.

Hunting for their meat, or medicinal use, or as pets, led to the species being listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

An adult box turtle weighs around 1kg (2.2lbs), measures around 20cm (7.9in) long and can live for up to 50 years.

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