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Page last updated at 08:28 GMT, Saturday, 21 August 2010 09:28 UK
Bristol Zoo breeding gets boost after tortoises arrive

Biggie (r) meets one of his new mates, Stevie, at Bristol Zoo Gardens
Biggie (r) meets one of his new mates, Stevie, at Bristol Zoo Gardens

Bristol Zoo Garden's breeding programme has received a giant boost thanks to the arrival of three new tortoises.

A male and two females - named Hogarth, Hissy and Stevie - have joined the zoo's current trio of giant tortoises: Biggie the male, and his three female companions, Twiggy, Helen and Matilda.

It is hoped that the arrival of Hogarth will give current 'top dog' Biggie a bit of competition and that it will kick-start breeding within the group.

Tim Skelton, curator of reptiles, has worked with the giant tortoises for 11 years.

He said: "The arrival of three new giant tortoises is a great addition to our collection.

"We needed to increase the group size in order to stimulate breeding behaviour in the herd as part of a co-ordinated captive breeding programme for this vulnerable species."

Hogarth the new male giant tortoise at Bristol Zoo Gardens
Hogarth, the new male giant tortoise at Bristol Zoo, has a look around

But the arrival of baby tortoises could take time, as Tim explained: "When it comes to tortoises, nothing happens very quickly, and Biggie has certainly been taking his time when it comes to breeding.

"He has been here for 35 years but hasn't taken much interest in the females that have been here during that time.

"We are hoping that the arrival of another male, as well as two new females, might motivate him into action."

The tortoises are Aldabra giant tortoises, the only surviving giant tortoise species from the islands of Aldabra and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

The species is classified as 'vulnerable' according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and many zoos are involved in breeding programmes for the species.

Hogarth, Hissy and Stevie are on a breeding loan from wildlife expert and television presenter Nigel Marven.

Nigel said: "I'm not sure of the exact ages of the three tortoises on loan to Bristol Zoo but they're at least 25 years old.

"They were bred in captivity in Zanzibar, not their ancestral home, which is Aldabra."

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