Marking important progress in the effort to save a critically endangered species, a Northern spider tortoise recently hatched at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Tiny enough to be eclipsed by a quarter, the new arrival is the second in less than a year for the Zoo, which is a leader in the conservation of Northern spider tortoises.
The young spider tortoise is only the fourth of its subspecies (Pyxis arachnoids brygooi) ever to be hatched at a North American zoo. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo saw its first Northern spider tortoise hatchling in late March 2007, and Knoxville Zoo has reported two since February 2007.
The latest hatching brings to seven the number of Northern spider tortoises living in the Zoo's RainForest and makes its collection of the species one of the two largest in the country. The Zoo also remains the only facility to have successfully hatched the subspecies under artificial light only.
The new hatchling arrived on March 17 and is doing extremely well, weighing less than an ounce and measuring about an inch long, according to Animal Keeper Brad Poynter. So far, the hatchling mostly eats greens, recently trying the leafy top of a strawberry, as well as a dandelion.
Fully grown, Northern spider tortoises measure four to five inches long and weigh less than a pound. From the spiny forests of Madagascar's southern coast, the species recently was given "critically endangered" status because its native habitat is being destroyed. Little is known about these tortoises in the wild, but one can spend hours digging a hole in the sand for a nest and laying a tiny egg. At the Zoo, the eggs are held in an incubator for at least seven months before they can hatch.
Northern spider tortoises can live to be more than 100 years old.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo . . . Connecting People with Wildlife