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Friday, October 7, 2011

Down here! Baby tortoise hatches that is 3,000 times smaller than its mother

Galapagos tortoise becomes first time mum at ripe old age of 90

By Mail Foreign Service

This newborn Galapagos tortoise looks tiny as it stands next to its massive mum - who is a staggering 3,000 times bigger.

The hatchling weighed just 87 grams when it was born and will take 30 years to get to the same size as its mother, who is a massive 256 kilos.

Keepers will not know if it is male or female for several years so have given it the unisex name NJ.

The tortoise - who is barely the size of its mum's foot - can expect to live to 150 years.

Hello titch: This newborn Galapagos hatchling weighed just 87 grams when it was born and will take 30 years to get to the same size as its mother

Its mum has become a first-time mother at the age of 90 but will play no role in its up-bringing.

As soon as a Galapagos tortoise is born they are left to fend for themselves.

The youngster is now roaming around its pen and nibbling on fruit and flowers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in New South Wales, Australia.

Keeper Jennifer Conaghan said: 'A Galapagos tortoise can live between 100 and 150 years so we expect NJ to be around long after we have all gone.

'It loves exploring the outside environment and is especially active on warm sunny days.

Hungry fella: Keepers will not know if the Galapagos addition is male or female for several years so have given it the unisex name NJ

'We are very careful with NJ's diet and it currently gets fed three to four times per week.

'The diet is as varied as possible and includes a variety of edible plant species, lucerne hay, herbs and finely chopped fruit and vegetables.

'Our Galapagos tortoise are responsive to bright coloured, edible flowers and fruit, such as roses, hibiscus, grapes and watermelon. But just like any youngster we ensure the hatchling eats all the veggies first.'

The zoo has been attempting to breed the Galapagos Tortoise for the last ten years.

Jennifer added: 'It involves manipulating and fine-tuning our husbandry techniques to achieve this fantastic result.

'At the end of the day however, regardless of what we do, it is up to the individual animals compatibility.

'There has only been a handful of zoos around the world that have had success with breeding this species and we currently have more eggs in the incubator.

'The incubation process is very temperature dependant and once the female lays the eggs the incubation time may take three to five months.

'NJ weighed in at about 87gms at hatching, which is about 0.00034 per cent of the size of its mum. It therefore has lots of growing to do over the next 30 years or so until it catches up.

'Although the size difference is huge, NJ is an exact replica of the adults.

'It's amazing to think of how much growing it has to do and the challenges any young hatchling would struggle with in the wild.

'Galapagos Tortoise are very responsive to getting a rub under the chin from their keepers and will stand up and extend themselves up for as long as you want to scratch them.

'They do have loads of personality but like everything to do with them - nothing happens quickly so you just have to be a little more patient to see it.'



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