Rare Vietnamese box turtle born in British zoo
London: One of the world's rarest species of turtle has hatched at a British zoo.
The tiny seven-week-old Vietnamese box turtle is so precious that it is being kept in a climate-controlled room at Bristol Zoo Gardens and is hand-fed chopped worms to give it the best possible start in life, a newspaper reported.
It is the first time a British zoo has ever bred this critically endangered species and is only the second in Europe, after a zoo in Germany, to have done so.
The youngster, which keepers have named Vernon, weighs just 28 g and measures around 5 cm long.
An adult box turtle weighs around 1 kg, measures around 20 cm long and can live up to 50 years old.
"This is a very difficult species to breed so I am thrilled with the arrival of this baby after so many years; it is certainly a career highlight," Curator of reptiles Tim Skelton, said.
The birth takes the total number of Vietnamese box turtles at Bristol Zoo to seven.
The zoo has joined forces with private turtle experts around Europe to form a European breeding programme in an effort to save the species from total extinction.
"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," Skelton was quoted as saying by the paper.
Box turtles are mainly terrestrial, although they enter shallow water to hunt and soak.
They are hunted for their meat, for use in medicine or as pets and have been listed as 'critically endangered' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.