Giant Galapagos tortoises are born at a British zoo for the first time
Two adorable Giant Galapagos tortoises have been born at a British zoo for the first time, marking a major milestone for breeding of the endangered species.
The hatchlings were born at Crocodiles of the World in Oxfordshire, having been fathered by a 70-year-old male in 'peak physical condition' called Dirk.
Shaun Foggett, founder of Crocodiles of the World, said: 'We're incredibly proud to have successfully bred these tortoises, who have previously been very close to extinction.
'They are still facing an uncertain future, primarily due to historic over-exploitation and egg predation from invasive species.
'We have all been hoping for this day since the Giant tortoises joined us in 2018 and it's a significant achievement towards helping the conservation of the species.'
The hatchlings weigh just 67g and 69g each, which is around the same weight as a kiwi fruit.
The zookeepers are monitoring them closely, feeding them a diet of dried grasses, pear cactus, weeds, and leafy greens.
Despite their diminutive size, the hatchlings will likely grow to be enormous in adulthood – Giant Galapagos tortoises are the largest living tortoise species in the world, and can weigh up to 880 pounds (400kg).
To breed the hatchlings, the zookeepers turned to Dirk – a 70-year-old Giant Galapagos tortoise who first arrive in the UK in the 1960s, and despite his age, is in 'peak physical condition.'
Dirk, who weighs an impressive 350 pounds (165kg), bred with a 21-year-old female called Charlie in November 2021.
In total, Crocodiles of the World is home to four adult Giant Galapagos tortoises, with two females called Zuzu and Isabella joining Charlie and Dirk.
The tortoises were brought to the zoo in 2018 from Chester Zoo and ZSL London.
Unfortunately, no fertile eggs were laid in the first three years, demonstrating just how hard it is to breed the species.