Rare turtle hatched at Bristol Zoo

By MSN/PA Tim Ireland/PA Wire
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One of the world's rarest species of turtle has hatched at a zoo in Bristol for the first time

The tiny seven-week-old Vietnamese box turtle is so precious that it is being kept in a climate-controlled room at Bristol Zoo Gardens and is hand-fed chopped worms to give it the best possible start in life. It is the first time a British zoo has ever bred this critically endangered species and is only the second in Europe, after a zoo in Germany, to have done so.

Tim Ireland/PA Wire
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The turtle, named Vernon, weighs just 28g and measures around 5cm long

Curator of reptiles Tim Skelton, who has cared for turtles for more than 40 years, said: "This is a very difficult species to breed so I am thrilled with the arrival of this baby after so many years; it is certainly a career highlight."

Tim Ireland/PA Wire
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An adult box turtle weighs around 1kg, measures around 20cm long and can live up to 50 years old

The birth takes the total number of Vietnamese box turtles at Bristol Zoo to seven. However, there are so few of these turtles in captivity that there is no dedicated zoo breeding programme for them. The zoo has joined forces with private turtle experts around Europe to form a European breeding programme.

Tim Ireland/PA Wire
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The Vietnamese box turtle is threatened with total extinction

Box turtles are mainly terrestrial, although they will enter shallow water to hunt and soak. They are hunted for their meat, for use in medicine or as pets and have been listed as 'critically endangered' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.