Houston, TX

Houston Zoo Welcomes Its First Painted Terrapins

Marisol Gallagher

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Houston Zoo

HOUSTON, TX - Four rare species of painted terrapins hatched at Houston Zoo in the past week. It's the first time for painted terrapin turtles to hatch at the Zoo.

One of the 25 most endangered freshwater turtles on earth, painted terrapins are colorful and medium-sized to large turtle species that inhabit rivers in Southeast Asia. The adults can be seen at the Houston Zoo's Wortham World Primate, in the orangutan moat, on the shore, and in the water.

All thanks to the collaborative effort between the primate, the keepers, water quality, herpetology departments, and veterinary that made successful hatches for these precious species. While the primate keepers and veterinarians watched over the adults in the orangutan moat, the keepers from herpetology departments monitored the incubation process.

The careful maintenance of water throughout the year, by the water quality team, provided the chance for turtles to breed.

Moreover, since these endangered animals cannot excrete salt from their bodies, they can only live in freshwater or brackish water with low salinity. Through their growing up years, their gray/brown coloration will provide suitable protection to the swamp environment around them.

The male painted terrapins will appear to be more colorful as their shells will lighten to show bold markings during the breeding seasons. Their gray heads will turn white and reveal a bright red stripe between their eyes, which gives them a beautiful 'painted' appearance. With their upturned snout, they can easily feed on plants that float on the surface of the water.

Unfortunately, their eggs and meat are hunted and sold in the wildlife for human consumption. Another threat to their survival comes from habitat destruction and pollution issue. The Houston Zoo is providing supports for Indonesian conservation professionals to save painted terrapins. Last year, there were more than 550 painted terrapin eggs in 33 nests in Indonesia that received support from the Zoo.

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