Prague Zoo is the second zoological garden in Europe that succeeded in hatching the spine turtle (Heosemys spinosa) and zoo visitors may see the small turtle for the first time this weekend, the zoo’s reptile curator Petr Velensky said. He said hatching is the most difficult part in breeding spine turtles as these turtles lay only one egg that needs to be kept in temperatures from 24 to 29°C. The young was 53 millimetres long and it weighed 38 grammes after hatching.
Velensky said young spine turtles do not resemble their parents. While an adult spine turtle is rounded, the young has pricking spines on its shell. “It resembles a cone or a small stegosaurus if one has a bit of imagination,” he said.
The endangered spiny turtle ranges throughout Southeast Asia, from Thailand and possibly southern Myanmar southward through Malaysia to Sumatra, Borneo and Natuna, numerous small Indonesian Islands and the Philippines. Spiny turtles live around shallow streams in the mountainous rainforests of south-east Asia, where their camouflage colours help them to hide in the leaf litter. Unfortunately this has not prevented huge numbers of turtles being caught for the food and pet trades, and in Indonesia the species is considered Critically Endangered, while populations elsewhere are also under threat. Over much of its range it seems to occur only in small, isolated populations.
The parents of the young were among some 10,000 turtles that were originally destined for Asian kitchens but the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria saved them from a ship in Hong Kong several years ago. Within a rescue campaign, the turtles were sent to zoos in all parts of the world. The Prague Zoo then received about a hundred of various turtles, including two female and one male spine turtles. The other zoo where a spiny turtle successfully hatched is the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, member of EAZA, and started by famous author Gerald Durrell and located on Jersey Island.
Prague Zoo is participating in the EAZA-IUCN SSC Southeast Asia Campaign and pledged to raise at least €2000 for biodiversity conservation in Southeast Asia.