Toronto Zoo Welcomes Its First Birth Of A Critically Endangered Species of Tortoise

TORONTO, ON: After an extensively monitored incubation period, the Toronto Zoo is thrilled to announce a baby Madagascar spider tortoise has successfully hatched. This is the first hatching of a Madagascar spider tortoise at the Toronto Zoo.

The Madagascar spider tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides) is a small tortoise endemic to southwestern Madagascar. As its name suggests, this species is characterized by the beautiful web-like patterns of yellow and black lines radiating across its upper shell or carapace. The Madagascar spider tortoise is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Populations in the wild are declining due to habitat alteration and collection for the pet trade and food trade.

In this particular case, the egg was laid Friday, October 4, 2019 and did go through a diapause, a period of “suspended animation” before developing and successfully hatching on Saturday, May 2, 2020. After the egg was discovered by Toronto Zoo Keepers, it was set up in a specialized incubation media (a mix of sterile vermiculite and water which maintains moisture availability to the embryo and allows for good gas exchange) and incubated at 28-30C for several weeks and then cooled to 20C for approximately one month. It was then incubated at 28-30C for the remaining 3-4 months of the incubation period.

“The Toronto Zoo is proud to support efforts to save and protect turtles and tortoises around the world as a member of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA),” said Dr. Andrew Lentini, Senior Director Wildlife and Science, Toronto Zoo. “Every year thousands of endangered Madagascar tortoises are illegally collected by poachers and destined for either the butcher block or Asian pet trade. Many are confiscated by Malagasy authorities and are placed for rehabilitation and treatment before being reintroduced into the wild or placed in long-term conservation breeding programs like those in accredited zoos like Toronto Zoo,” he added.

“This is a great example of the critical work done at the Toronto Zoo with our world class wildlife care team,” said Dolf DeJong, Toronto Zoo CEO. “This is your Toronto Zoo living our mission of connecting people, animals and conservation science to fight extinction,” he added.

The Toronto Zoo first started working with this critically endangered species in 2007 and this marks the first successful reproduction.

Leave a Reply