POWELL – If the first newborn of the New Year is any indication of what 2017 has in store, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium should anticipate a year of patience, endurance and stability.
The first zoo-borns – born on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day – were northern snake-necked turtles.
Of the recent clutch, four turtles have hatched so far: one on Dec. 29, one on Dec. 31 and two on Jan. 1. Prior to the clutch that hatched last year, the Columbus Zoo has not bred this species since 1998. All hatchlings weigh about 9 grams each. Adults can reach up to 10 pounds.
The northern snake-necked turtle (Chelodina oblonga) is named for its uniquely long neck that, instead of retracting inside its shell, wraps tightly around the turtle’s body for protection. It is one of two snake-necked turtle species cared for at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium; the other, the Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi), is much smaller and is listed as critically endangered. (The northern snake-necked turtle is listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, or IUCN.)
Like most turtle species, the northern snake-necked turtle is facing human-related threats to their populations. While indigenous people of Australia have been able to live harmoniously with this species, increasing agricultural development of the region is threatening these turtles’ long-term survival.
At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, breeding presents its own challenges.
“Snake-necked turtles are not easily bred, and very little research has been published about breeding techniques,” said Saul Bauer, a reptile expert at the Zoo’s Shores Region. “The new hatchlings are an exciting success, not just for us at the Columbus Zoo, but for turtle research at large.”
While these hatchlings will not immediately be on public view, their parents – as well as Roti Island snake-necked turtles – can be visited at the Reptile Building at the Columbus Zoo.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is dedicated to the conservation of turtle species around the globe as well as within the park. The Zoo has been able to donate to about 25 different turtle-centered conservation projects since 2010, and makes annual contributions to the Turtle Survival Alliance. In central Ohio, the Columbus Zoo cares for three of the top 25 most endangered turtle species.
Information for this story was provided by the Columbus Zoo.