By Suzannah Hills
A rare turtle takes its first glimpse of the world as it emerges from its egg - becoming one of the first to hatch from a special breeding scheme in a bid to reverse diminishing numbers.
The yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, named after the spots on the side of its head, is one of the largest river turtles in South America with its shell growing up to 20 inches long.
But the species, once on the endangered list, is still classed as vulnerable and is constantly under threat from over-hunting, the pet trade and climate change.
Cracking open: The moment a yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle hatches from its egg after being bred in a special programme at New York's Rosamond Gifford Zoo
Although aggressive conservation and breeding programs in their native countries is helping to sustain the Amazon river turtle population.
This baby turtle is one of 27 hatched in a special breeding program at New York’s Rosamond Gifford Zoo, one of just 70 zoos worldwide to house them, and is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
Zoo director Ted Fox said: 'Captive breeding programs are often critical in the survival of a species and this is a success story we are proud to tell.
'The hatching of these once-endangered species is exciting for us, as many of them will enhance the exhibits at other accredited zoos.'
Newborn: The baby yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, named after the spots on the side of its head, currently fits in the palm of the hand but its shell will grow up to 20 inches long when it reaches adulthood
Vulnerable: The baby turtles are on exhibit at the New York's Rosamond Gifford Zoo but will eventually be transferred to zoos and aquariums around America
Weighing up to 25 pounds, they are found mainly in the Amazon and Orinoco River drainages, large rivers, backwaters, lagoons and flooded forests, living for around 20 years.
Spending most of their time in the water, they only come out to bask in the sun on logs or stones.
Females typically lay two clutches of eggs each year, each with up to 50 eggs in it.
They make their nests in sandy areas on the banks of rivers where the eggs will hatch two to three months after they are laid.
In the wild, eggs are laid at the peak of the dry season so the nest will not be washed away.
The baby turtles are on exhibit at the zoo for a limited time and will eventually be transferred to zoos and aquariums around the U.S.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
By Suzannah Hills