The Prospect Park Zoo welcomed five new endangered Chinese big-headed turtles. The little reptiles were born last month, which the Wildlife Conservation Society says is "the first time the species has successfully reproduced at a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums." And they are so cute!
Why is the turtle (Platysternon megacephalum) called the "big-headed turtle"? Well, the WCS explains that it "can grow to be about seven inches in length. It has a skull of solid bone that is so large in proportion to its body that it cannot be withdrawn into its shell for protection." It is one of many turtle species that are coveted in East Asia as a delicacy as well as for medicinal purposes.
There are 15 big-headed turtles at the Bronx and Prospect Park Zoos; the baby turtles are not on display yet. WCS Executive Vice President of Zoos and Aquarium Jim Breheny said, "The success we are seeing at this point in our turtle propagation work is encouraging. Our work on breeding endangered turtles utilizes the expertise found throughout the entire WCS organization as well as various partner organizations with whom we work." Here's how the WCS explains its husbandry practices:
[C]omplex husbandry techniques were fine tuned to promote breeding and successful incubation of the eggs. Before the breeding season, adults are isolated and placed in enclosures with environmental conditions that mimic the annual environmental cycles they would experience in the wild. These environmental cycles are important to the regular reproductive functions of the species. Room temperatures and lighting are adjusted depending on the time of year - colder and darker in the fall and winter, warmer and lighter in the spring and summer. During their “winter” the turtles hibernate. After awaking, males are introduced to females.
The Prospect Park Zoo is open 365 days a year.