Keepers at West Midland Safari Park are in awe of their incredibly cute, tiny new addition — a baby pancake tortoise.
At about the size of a 50 pence coin, the little one, who hatched on 3 July, has been named Finn and is playing a big part for its species’ conservation.
In the wild, pancake tortoises inhabit the mountains of Kenya and Tanzania with a preference for dry areas with rocky outcrops. Although their wild diet would usually offer grass and the occasional treat of fallen fruit, at the Park Finn can expect vegetation from courgettes to dandelions to be on the menu.
With a slow reproductive rate and a very lengthy incubation period, hatchings such as this one at the Park are always an event to honour and has been eagerly anticipated since the arrival of Finn’s mum and dad from Amsterdam a few years ago.
Steve Slater, Deputy Head of the Discovery Trail said, “The keepers excitedly opened the incubator after waiting many weeks and were completely shell shocked to discover this little but very important find — the very first baby of this species at West Midland Safari Park.
“The pancake tortoise is a species of flat-shelled tortoise, in the family ‘Testudinidae’. Its common name refers to the flat shape of its shell. Unlike other tortoises, the shell on a pancake tortoise is actually flexible making them lighter and speedier than other tortoises. The biggest threat to pancake tortoises is habitat destruction and being taken for the pet trade. Due to its vulnerable status, they are now the subject of a breeding programme in European zoos, which ours are a part of.”
These reptiles are unfortunately classified as ‘vulnerable,’ due to habitat destruction and over-harvesting for the pet trade. Their beautiful aesthetics create an understandable desire for private collections, which unfortunately has lead to over-exploitation.
Fortunately, the cohesion of European zoos’ breeding programmes are helping to support the species, in a vow to support tortoise conservation in a regulated and ethical environment.
Baby animals at the Park of this size have to be monitored by keepers, however the adult pancake tortoises can be viewed in the Reptile House located in the Discovery Trail.
The Discovery Trail is included in the standard admission charge of £23.00 for adults, £18.00 for children aged 3-15 and £21.00 for concessions. Admission includes a voucher for a return visit or safari gift. Adventure Theme Park rides are charged extra.
Further information and tickets are available from the Park’s website www.wmsp.co.uk or by telephone 01299 402114. You can find out more on the Safari Park’s official Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WestMidSafari.