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Singapore Zoo Gives Rare Tortoises a Head Start in the Race Against Extinction

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Singapore Zoo has been successful in the conservation breeding and maintenance of an assurance colony of Southern River Terrapins (pictured above). More than 50 terrapins have been bred since 2007. Assurance colonies refer to the safeguarding of an endangered species under human care, in case the wild population is wiped out. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Singapore Zoo has been successful in the conservation breeding and maintenance of an assurance colony of Southern River Terrapins (pictured above). More than 50 terrapins have been bred since 2007. Assurance colonies refer to the safeguarding of an endangered species under human care, in case the wild population is wiped out. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Singapore Zoo Gives Rare Tortoises a Head Start in the Race Against Extinction

The Singapore Zoo unveils its newest exhibit in commemoration of World Turtle Day—Tortoise Shell-ter. Guests were treated to special Keeper Talks as well.

Great care was taken in designing Singapore Zoo’s Tortoise Shell-ter, now home to some of the world’s most threatened tortoises such as the critically endangered Ploughshare Tortoise (pictured above).Only 200 mature specimens are left in the wild, and survive in a 12 square km patch in Madagascar. Their decline in recent years is a result of poaching for the illegal pet trade. The species is at extreme risk of extinction in the wild within 10-15 years. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Great care was taken in designing Singapore Zoo’s Tortoise Shell-ter, now home to some of the world’s most threatened tortoises such as the critically endangered Ploughshare Tortoise (pictured above).Only 200 mature specimens are left in the wild, and survive in a 12 square km patch in Madagascar. Their decline in recent years is a result of poaching for the illegal pet trade. The species is at extreme risk of extinction in the wild within 10-15 years. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

The tortoise sanctuary replicates the natural habitat of the world’s rarest tortoises in hopes that they would breed. This is in keeping with ongoing efforts to replenish their numbers and save them from extinction. Zoo guests can observe how these tortoises behave in nature and learn more about them.

Singapore Zoo has been successful in the conservation breeding and maintenance of an assurance colony of Southern River Terrapins (pictured above). More than 50 terrapins have been bred since 2007. Assurance colonies refer to the safeguarding of an endangered species under human care, in case the wild population is wiped out. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Singapore Zoo has been successful in the conservation breeding and maintenance of an assurance colony of Southern River Terrapins (pictured above). More than 50 terrapins have been bred since 2007. Assurance colonies refer to the safeguarding of an endangered species under human care, in case the wild population is wiped out. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) Chief Life Sciences and Deputy Chief Executive Officer Dr Cheng Wen-Haur says, “We are working in the zoo as well as in their native habitats to prevent these ancient creatures from disappearing from earth altogether. Through the Tortoise Shell-ter we would like to highlight their plights to our guests and to engage them to join us in our effort to save the species.”


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The shelter houses three of the most endangered species in the world: the Radiated Tortoise, the Ploughshare Tortoise and the Burmese Star Tortoise. It also houses the Yellow-footed Tortoise and the Elongated Tortoise, as well as confiscated animals from the illicit pet trade, such as the Indian Star Tortoise.The exhibit is one of the best examples of education and conservation in the zoo. It takes a lot to care for these delicate species. The exhibit is climate-controlled with species-specific micro-habitats. The exhibit has special lighting, rock walls, and humidity levels that will give them a fair chance at thriving and hopefully reproduce.

Singapore Zoo - Ploughshare tortoise tattooed to lower black
Singapore Zoo – Ploughshare tortoise tattooed to lower black

The tortoises are well-adapted to protect themselves against their natural predators in the wild. Their shells or carapaces are tough as nails, and can shield them from most of their predators. However, they were not proof against the exploitation of humans and loss of habitat. Dr Cheng Wen-Haur says, “Within the span of just one human generation, many turtle and tortoise species have been decimated to near extinction through our activities,”

The Singapore Zoo is not just about showcasing rare chelonians in the Tortoise Shell-ter. Other turtle species not on the critically threatened list but otherwise threatened are also undergoing conservation breeding to ensure their survival. Singapore Zoo has a good history of success in safekeeping the population of endangered terrestrial and aquatic chelonian species.

Singapore Zoo - Tortoise Shellter
Singapore Zoo – Tortoise Shellter

These include terrapins and turtles as well as tortoises. The recent hatching of the Painted Terrapin, a critically endangered species, was the first in the zoo. Breeding is ongoing for the Southern River Terrapin, the Elongated Tortoise, and the Burmese Mountain Tortoise.

SG Zoo - Radiated Tortoises
SG Zoo – Radiated Tortoises

The zoo’s breeding program aims to eventually reintroduce each of the endangered species into the wild as long as they can be sure that the habitat will be a safe one for them. WRS also supports active offsite and onsite breeding and reintroduction programs in other countries in Southeast Asia. The organization also works with trade monitoring agencies to increase public awareness of the illegal trade of tortoises.

Singapore Zoo- Southern River Terrapin hatchlings_WRS
Singapore Zoo- Southern River Terrapin hatchlings_WRS

World Turtle Day is celebrated every year on May 23. It aims to acknowledge and protect tortoises and turtles, and to raise awareness of their plight in the wild and diminishing habitats. Singapore hosted it in 2016 with three special Keeper Talks at the Singapore Zoo for the edification of the guests.

Singapore Zoo is located at 80 Mandai Lake Road Singapore 729826. More information can be found at www.zoo.com.sg.

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