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Baby Aldabra Giant Tortoises Turn 2 ~ Improved Zookeeping Process Published in European Journal

The baby Aldabra Giant Tortoises that Taipei Zoo successfully bred for the first time have turned two! Taipei Zoo was also invited by ZOOQUARIA, the quarterly journal of European zoos and aquariums, to publish our improved zookeeping process! Many years of effort went into the Aldabra Giant Tortoise breeding program. In 2013, we began adjusting the giant tortoises’ nutritional intake, improving their facilities and increasing their level of activity. In 2017, the giant tortoise couple of “Shuei Ke” (♂) and “Chung Chung” (♀) finally mated successfully and healthy baby giant tortoises were hatched using an incubator. The baby giant tortoises are now two and still growing steadily. They are nowhere near as large as their parents, but we are sure they will grow up to be big and strong!
The Aldabra Giant Tortoises at Taipei Zoo exhibited mating behavior before, but failed to breed. Long-term observation by the keepers determined that many of the tortoises had an uneven gait. The giant tortoises are very large and heavy so a lack of leg strength was suspected in their inability to mate properly. Once the problem was detected, the keepers began making improvements in 2013. The previous activity area for the giant tortoises was too flat and even, so there was a risk of tortoises being stuck on their backs. A hillside location was therefore chosen for building their new habitat. The new outdoor activity area is not only bigger, but also has inclines of up to 30 degrees for the giant tortoises to explore. The keepers also increased the amount of food and leaves to meet the giant tortoises’ nutritional requirements. In addition, leaves were hung up during feeding time, forcing the giant tortoises to stretch their legs or even lift up their forelegs to reach the food. This setup not only improved the giant tortoises’ physical strength, but also more closely matched their natural foraging behavior in the wild.
Over time, the keepers discovered that the improvements resulted in steadier walking among the giant tortoises. Each tortoise also grew at a faster pace. The good news finally came at the end of 2017 when “Chung Chung” (♀) started searching for a place to lay eggs, which she successfully laid in the birthing room that the keepers set up. The eggs started hatching the following year and became the two-year-old baby giant tortoises that we now see. The keepers provided the baby giant tortoises with a complex and changing environment as well. Thanks to their efforts, they have been very healthy and are growing well. They are clearly a lot larger than they were last year at one-year-old. They now eat, sleep, and develop well every day.
The breeding of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise has proven to be a breakthrough success from many years of committed hard work. Field observations and comparisons with the species’ habitat led to gradual improvements in animal welfare. The giant tortoises benefited from the better care and more natural lifestyle. Our successful breeding of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise led to an invitation to publish in ZOOQUARIA, the quarterly journal of European zoos and aquariums.