Wildlife Care team members at the San Diego Zoo welcomed 41 tiny Indian narrow-headed softshell turtle hatchings this summer, becoming the first accredited North American conservation organization to hatch and raise this rare reptile species.
According to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, three narrow-headed softshell turtles have called the Zoo home for more than 20 years. The breeding process among this species is described as “prolonged as the turtles can take close to 10 years to even reach sexual maturity”.
This summer, wildlife team members discovered two nests containing 41 eggs, and while a few of the turtles were hatched, the rest were placed in an artificial incubator. In a news release, the San Diego Zoo wildlife alliance noted that the reptiles usually lay their eggs overnight and cover them in the dirt, “adding difficulty to locating a nest”.
“This is a thrilling moment for us at the San Diego Zoo, and an incredible step forward in the conservation of this species,” said Kim Gray, curator of herpetology and ichthyology at the San Diego Zoo. “We have been focused on caring for these turtles for a very long time, and a part of that care is to gain a greater understanding of the species’ natural history. With the knowledge we gain here at the Zoo, we can better assist our partners in India to help this essential species thrive in their natural habitat.”
There is now a new generation of narrow-headed softshell turtles at the San Diego Zoo. The species, also known as the small-headed softshell turtle, is a large turtle species in the Indian subcontinent.
According to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, they are found at the bottom of deep rivers and streams in northern India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.