It’s arrived just in time for Pancake Day
RZSS Edinburgh Zoo’s latest addition – a baby pancake tortoise – emerged right on cue just before Shrove Tuesday. The little flat-shelled reptile has been named Pamba, and its birth is good news for the species, currently classified on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable.
Pancake tortoises come from Kenya and Tanzania, where their shells allow them to shelter in crevices between rocks. While Pamba is small right now, as an adults its shell could grow to be 18 centimetres (seven inches) long. Unlike other species with their heavy, solid shells, pancake tortoises are lighter and more agile because their shell bones are full of small openings.
These tortoises are undeniably appealing, but their cuteness has put them in danger. Along with habitat loss in their native range, one of the biggest threats to the species is capture for the pet trade. Pamba’s parents were themselves victims of this activity, seized at Edinburgh airport customs from someone trying to illegally import them.
To boost numbers and preserve the pancake tortoise, a European breeding programme has been set up. Pamba and others born through the programme help to maintain genetic diversity within the species, which could prove vital should wild populations decline even more.