Tortoise Babies Begin Their Very Long Lives

At Australia's Taronga Western Plains Zoo

May 2, 2014
Outside Magazine

Hey there, little guys (or girls).    Taronga Zoo

With the debut of two Galapagos tortoise hatchlings in Australia came some adorable photos and a sobering reminder of our own mortality, as tortoise supervisor Jennifer Conaghan told the Australian Associated Press, "When we're all pushing up daisies, they'll be hitting their prime." 

True, the baby tortoises are just starting what could be a lifetime of 150 years—and that's great news for their kind. Galapagos tortoises are an endangered species, with only about 15,000 left in the world after centuries of being poached for meat. 

These four-month-olds also represent a thrilling success for Australia's Taronga Western Plains Zoo, where they'll join another three-year-old tortoise as the first few Galapagos tortoises ever born in captivity on the continent

  Photo: Taronga Zoo

New photos from the zoo show the hatchlings already looking like the wrinkly, sour-faced adults they'll grow up to be. In fact, they're already perfect miniature replicas of full-sized tortoises, claws and all, but they won't reach maximum size for another 20 to 25 years. We won't even know their sex until they're five years old.

But there's no rush. For now, the babies are enjoying daily time in the sun, a temperature-controlled living area, and colorful meals of hibiscus petals and green vegetables. There may even be more hatchlings on the way: Conaghan says that the 2014 breeding season has already started "with lots of early interest from the males in the females."

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