March 21, 2023

A Shell-ebration


A Shell-ebration
Radiated tortoise basking in the sun. Bernard Dupont, Wikimedia Commons.

A radiated tortoise was born in Moscow Zoo's terrarium for the first time. According to Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, the tortoise was found in the hatchery during a routine daily inspection of eggs, and hatched on its own without the assistance of zoologists or veterinarians. 

RIA Novosti reported that the tortoise weighed 29 grams upon hatching, with a shell five centimeters long, and that its weight has since increased to 50 grams. The tortoise's sex is yet to be determined.

According to the mayor, the hatchling is thriving: its appetite is strong, and it is moving actively, bathing and sunbathing in the terrarium. RIA Novosti's article lists the hatchling's diet, which includes lettuce, fruits, zucchini, and pumpkin, and will be adapted as the reptile grows.

The radiated tortoise is native to Madagascar and is extremely rare. The species is considered critically endangered by the IUCN: as RIA Novosti notes, it is "close to extinction due to a shrinking food supply, shrinking habitat, poaching, and sale as pets." The species is sought after for the eponymous radiated pattern upon its shell, and is commonly poached: many large-scale poaching operations have been uncovered over the past decade, including the discovery of 10,000 captive tortoises in 2018.

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