Now there are three baby keeled box turtles at Bristol Zoo Gardens
They waited for 12 years for one – but now keepers at Bristol Zoo Gardens have seen three keeled box turtles hatch in the space of just six days.
The third emerged last Saturday following the arrival of two others two days before.
Bristol Zoo is believed to be the first Zoo in Europe to have successfully bred keeled box turtles.
The tiny rare turtles, each slightly bigger than a 50p piece and weighing just 12.5 grams, hatched after more than three months’ incubation.
There are just 15 adult keeled box turtles in zoos across Europe and only 49 in the world of which six are in Bristol.
The latest arrival means Bristol has more than half of the European population of keeled turtles.
Adam Davis, senior keeper of reptiles and amphibians, has been involved in the breeding programme for keeled box turtles since coming to Bristol Zoo seven years ago.
He said: “We have been trying to breed this species throughout the time I’ve been here and even prior to that. To have finally cracked it is quite a relief.”
Adam checks the turtles’ weight and measures their shells regularly to make sure they are developing well.
The three turtles hatched at Bristol Zoo from a clutch of six but keepers at the 180-year-old Zoo in Clifton do not yet know the sex of the new turtles and it could be up to five years until they do.
The turtles currently have vivid red flashes around the bottom of their shells but when they are fully grown and weigh up to 1 kg these will turn to black.
Keeled box turtles are found in China, India and Vietnam but no-where in any great numbers.
Their population has been in steep decline because of people capturing them for food or to keep as pets.
Their numbers have also been affected by the forests where they live being destroyed.
The keeled box turtles get their name from the three raised ridges along their upper shell. They are unlike many other turtles because they burrow into the soil during the day and only come out to forage for food at night.
These turtles prefer solid earth to water and can be found in hot densely wooded forests under mounds of leaves or hidden between rocky cricks around mountains.