Auckland Zoo is welcoming an extremely mini new family member, who will grow to become one of the world’s largest tortoises.
The baby Galapagos tortoise hatched out of a billiard ball-sized egg on December 30, weighing in at just 60g.
Despite its miniscule stature, the baby would grow to over 2,500 times in body mass, growing to reach over 100kg if it turns out to be a female.
If the hatchling is a male, he will grow up to 400 times in size and could reach more than 250kg.
The tortoise in its egg was excavated from where female tortoise Chippie laid it in the ground and put in a controlled environment to ensure its best chance of survival.
The sex of the new arrival would not be known for several years.
As the temperature in which a tortoise is incubated can help determine their gender, it was highly likely the hatchling would be a female.
The tortoise’s arrival makes Auckland zoo the second in Australasia to breed this species and parents Smiley and Chippie the country’s first Galapagos tortoises to produce offspring.
The zoo currently has four adult Galapagos tortoises; male tortoises Smiley and Willy and females Chippie and Snapper.
The tortoise gang ranges from 46 to 48 – making the tortoises still youngsters themselves in Galapagos tortoise years.
Zoo curator Richard Gibson said he was delighted Smiley and Chippie had finally bred, expanding their family of the “extraordinary” species of island giants.
“These long-lived, slow maturing reptiles are renowned for taking their time, so we’re delighted that they’ve finally bred,” Gibson said.
“The redevelopment of our tortoise enclosure two years ago provided us with a fantastic and much larger climate-controlled indoor area and the capacity to hold two males separately.”
Zoo visitors would not be able to see the tortoise hatchling in the flesh for several weeks while it settled in an off-display facility.
Tortoise fans were being offered the chance to name the Zoo’s treasured first Galapagos tortoise hatchling through an online voting competition which would be launched on the Zoo’s Facebook page soon.