Taronga’s Indian Star Tortoise breeding group has two new hatchlings.
A total of nine Star Tortoises are now housed in the Zoo’s Reptile World, with the four juveniles still too young for display being cared for off exhibit.
Now four weeks old, the two youngest love their food! “They just sit in their food tray and eat all day,” said Reptile Keeper, Lisa Cavanagh. “They feed on greens, carrot, sweet potato, squash – just chopped up – and they love mulberry. Leaves, berries, you put a stick in for them and they’ll just eat that!”
Taronga’s breeding ensures the continuation of the species in Australia, as their reproduction rates are relatively slow. Natural populations in Sri Lanka and India are decreasing due to habitat loss. They are also eaten by local people, and their natural breeding rates cannot keep up with human population growth.
“They are not doing well in the wild,” says Lisa. “You might find that our two little ones will go to another zoo to increase the numbers around Australia,” Lisa said.
There’s a big window for breeding as the lifespan of the Star Tortoise is relatively long. Reaching maturity at about seven to 10 years old, Lisa says that they can live for over half a century.
“Some of the larger species we have, like the Aldabra Tortoises, they can reach 150 years,” said Lisa. “It’s a bit hard to say but these guys could potentially reach 50-plus years.”
“They’re illegal to keep as pets,” says Lisa. “Any exotic species are illegal in Australia, and we don’t have any native tortoises, we only have turtles. So no, you can’t keep one of these guys!”