The critically endangered, Madagascar big-headed turtle has been bred at the Houston Zoo. This is highly welcome news for a species ranked by the Turtle Conservation Fund as one of the top 25 most endangered turtles in the world. The IUCN report that just 10,000 turtles exist in 20 subpopulations.

Currently the teeny turtles measure just 3.3cm (1.3in) long and tipping the scales at just 0.2lb (90g).

Madgascan turtles

They are beginning to grow though on a diet of aquatic turtle pellets and romaine lettuce.

Growing populations of humans have led to a decreasing population of Madagascar big-headed turtles in western Madagascar’s lakes and rivers.

Madagascan turtles

Luckily these turtles along with 20 eggs currently being incubated have provided a much needed boost to their population. The babies are growing up behind the scenes.

Meanwhile the adult turtles can be seen swimming in the moat surrounding the lemur exhibit. They moved there in 2008 following the installation of a pool heater so they can stay warm in winter and underwater boxes made from roofing tiles and bricks so they can hide from each other as they are prone to aggression.

Madagascan turtles

Two males and five female turtles have lived at the zoo since December 2005 when the US Fish and Wildlife Service confiscated them.

This species is under threat from exploitation for the traditional medicine trade and the destruction of their native habitat.

Photo Credit: Houston Zoo

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