New exhibit a naturalistic sanctuary for the tortoises to display natural behaviour and breed;
Zoo celebrates World Turtle Day with special Keeper Talks for guests

Image 1: Great care was taken in designing Singapore Zoo’s Tortoise Shell-ter, now home to some of the world’s most threatened tortoises such as the critically endangered Ploughshare Tortoise (pictured above).Only 200 mature specimens are left in the wild, and survive in a 12 square km patch in Madagascar. Their decline in recent years is a result of poaching for the illegal pet trade. The species is at extreme risk of extinction in the wild within 10-15 years. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Image 2: Singapore Zoo has been successful in the conservation breeding and maintenance of an assurance colony of Southern River Terrapins (pictured above). More than 50 terrapins have been bred since 2007. Assurance colonies refer to the safeguarding of an endangered species under human care, in case the wild population is wiped out. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Singapore, 20 May 2016 – Boosting Singapore Zoo’s efforts to save the world’s most threatened vertebrates from extinction is its newest exhibit—Tortoise Shell-ter. Guests at the park can now look forward to learning more about some of the world’s rarest tortoises and ongoing efforts to increase their dwindling numbers.

Tortoise Shell-ter showcases three critically endangered tortoise species—the Ploughshare Tortoise, Radiated Tortoise and Burmese Star Tortoise—making it one of Singapore Zoo’s exhibits with greater conservation and educational values. Other threatened species at the new attraction include the Elongated Tortoise and the Yellow-footed Tortoise. The naturalistic exhibits feature rock walls, habitat specific planting, and climate-controlled micro-habitats, including special lighting, heating with temperature gradient and humidity control, to create the ideal home away from home for these delicate species to thrive.

Some of these tortoises share their homes with other compatible reptiles, such as the Rock Monitor, Black and White Tegu, Green Iguana and Veiled Chameleon. This provides inter-species interaction, which is a great form of enrichment for the inhabitants, as well as providing a more interesting viewing experience to the guests.
In addition to featuring threatened species, Tortoise Shell-ter is also a sanctuary for some former-victims of the illegal wildlife trade, which have been confiscated and sent to Singapore Zoo, such as the Indian Star Tortoise.

In the wild, these land-dwelling reptiles’ shells (called carapaces) shield them against predators but they are no match for the combination of habitat loss and human exploitation, including unsustainable consumption and poaching for the illegal pet trade.
Aside from showcasing these chelonians at the Tortoise Shell-ter, Singapore Zoo also contributes to safeguarding the future of other threatened species of turtles through conservation breeding and the maintenance of assurance colonies. The latter refers to the safekeeping of endangered species populations under human care in case something happens to the already diminished numbers in the wild. Singapore Zoo has a good track record of breeding threatened chelonian species, both terrestrial (tortoises) and aquatic (turtles and terrapins) and has recently had the first hatching for the critically endangered Painted Terrapin. Other threatened species bred at the Zoo include the endangered Elongated Tortoise and Burmese Mountain Tortoise and the critically endangered Southern River Terrapin.

The park’s breeding programmes offer the possibility of reintroducing the animals to the wild whenever their safety can be ensured in their natural habitat. In addition, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) actively supports on-site and off-site breeding and reintroduction programmes in a few Southeast Asian countries. It also collaborates with trade monitoring organisations to raise awareness on illegal wildlife trade of tortoises.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Life Sciences Officer, WRS, said: “Within the span of just one human generation, many turtle and tortoise species have been decimated to near extinction through our activities. We are working in the zoo as well as in their native habitats to prevent these ancient creatures from disappearing from earth altogether. Through the Tortoise Shell-ter we would like to highlight their plights to our guests and to engage them to join us in our effort to save the species.”

World Turtle Day, observed every 23 May, aims to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises, and their disappearing habitats around the world. To commemorate World Turtle Day this year, Singapore Zoo has lined up three special Keeper Talks for guests to find out more about these rare tortoises and their plight in the wild. Visitors will get to see the wild residents participating in a host of enrichment activities, and get up close and personal with the Indian star tortoise, the most confiscated tortoise in Singapore.


Singapore, 1 Jul 2010Wildlife Reserves Singapore, parent company of award-winning attractions Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, recently sent 36 Indian star tortoises to Fort Worth Zoo in Texas, in a first-time partnership with the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA).

TSA, a US-based conservation group, supports and manages recovery programmes for endangered turtles and tortoises around the world. Mostly donations from the public or confiscations from the police and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, some of these tortoises have been kept at the Singapore Zoo for nearly two years, as it is illegal to keep Indian star tortoises as pets in Singapore.

This first shipment of Indian star tortoises marks the start of a long-term exchange between WRS and TSA to re-home exotic and endangered turtles and tortoises. The tortoises, which have arrived in Texas, will be distributed to TSA partner zoos across the United States, such as the Fort Worth Zoo, to be integrated in breeding programmes and educational animal exhibits.

Native to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Indian star tortoise is one of the most prized breeds in the international exotic pet trade because of its beautifully coloured patterned shell. It fetches a high profit margin and is very popular in overseas markets such as the United States and other European countries. One tortoise can cost as little as $5 in India, over $100 in Singapore, and as much as $1,000 in the United States.

Raising these animals in captivity is challenging and usually leads to the demise of these precious tortoises as they are picky eaters.

“Such exotic animals should not be kept as pets and their well-being should be left in the care of experts,” said Ms Fanny Lai, WRS’ Group CEO. “WRS continues to work with other institutions to ensure confiscated or donated animals are well-placed in reputable wildlife institutions, repatriated or where possible, rehabilitated and released into the wild.”

A box of Indian Star Tortoises en route to Fort Worth Zoo from Singapore. Their black shells with striking yellow ridges make them popular exotic pets.
Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) assistant curator, Bernard Santhosh, scans one of the tortoises to ensure it’s the correct one slated for this shipment. All WRS animals are microchipped for easy identification across borders.
Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) assistant curator Bernard Santhosh gently places the tortoises into compartmentalised boxes to ensure their safe and comfortable journey to the United States. These tortoises can grow to as long as ten inches. One of its unique traits is the shape of its shell which naturally assists the tortoise to return to a stable stance after it has been turned over.