Source: Zoo and Aquarium Visitor.com
Singapore Zoo Successfully Breeds Rare Giant River Terrapins
By Cheryl Wen
Both female terrapins at the zoo were recently found to be gravid with eggs, which are due to be laid anytime now. X-ray examinations on 13 December 2010 revealed that they were carrying over 40 eggs between them. The incubation period for these terrapins ranges from 68 to 112 days.
Giant river terrapins lay their eggs only once a year and the Singapore Zoo has successfully had four hatchlings to date in 2007 and 2009 ? two of which are now on display at the Proboscis Monkey pool, while the others are behind the scenes in our turtle hatchery facility. The park is currently home to the two adult females, two adult males and the four hatchlings. Considered an extremely rare species, this breed, also known as Batagur affinis, is native to Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Sumatra.
?It is relatively easy to get the terrapins to mate but the challenge is getting them to nest on an artificial beach. In the past, the terrapins have laid their clutches of eggs in water and we were only able to rescue a few of the eggs. This is why we have had only a small number of hatchlings despite each clutch consisting over 20 eggs,? said Biswajit Guha, Director, Singapore Zoo. ?Similarly in the wild, as they migrate to their nesting beach, they can be deterred from laying their eggs by disturbances on or around the beach.?
During the mating season, the males? head, neck and legs turn black and their irises change, from yellow to pure white, with the colours reverting at the end of the mating season. Females swim far upstream from their usual estuarine habitats, as far as 80km, to nest communally on sand bars and river banks.
The giant river terrapin is listed as critically endangered in the 2009 IUCN Red List and in CITES Appendix I. This species and other Asian turtles are in grave danger for a number of reasons including the thriving illegal wildlife trade, and their appeal as a delicacy in Asia.
Earlier this year, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which operates the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and the upcoming River Safari, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to embark on joint studies in the region, including a project to conserve giant river terrapins in Asia. WRS also works closely with local authorities and conservation groups such as Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) to re-home confiscated wild turtles and tortoises or distribute them to partner zoos to be integrated into breeding programmes and educational animal exhibits.
ABOUT SINGAPORE ZOO
To better meet the healthcare needs of its animals and working towards its aspiration to become a leading global centre of excellence for veterinary healthcare and research, a purpose-built Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre was set up in March 2006.
In 2008, 1.6 million visitors enjoyed the experiential learning experience at the 28-hectare award-winning Zoo. Singapore Zoo is part of Wildlife Reserves Singapore. The Zoo is designated a wildlife rescue centre by the governing authority.
Singapore Zoo is located at 80 Mandai Lake Road Singapore 729826. More information can be found at www.zoo.com.sg.