The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) is home to a number of beautiful but endangered leopard tortoises. These large reptiles are suffering due mainly to habitat loss. They are often hunted for food in poorer communities, and are also at risk of being run over by cars when trying to cross the road.
On the evening of 13 December, our staff members were lucky enough to witness a very special event. After noticing that one of our female tortoises was digging a hole, we began watching her closely. After a day of digging (what a hard worker!), we excitedly gathered together to watch her lay her eggs.
In what seemed like quite a short amount of time, she laid a total of 9 perfect looking eggs!
Leopard tortoises only begin to reproduce when they are at least 10 years old. The female lays her clutch of up to 18 eggs into a burrow in the ground, which is quickly covered to protect her young.
Among land tortoises, leopard tortoises have the longest egg incubation period: about 460 days! When ready to hatch, each hatchling has a small egg tooth that it uses to break out of its shell.
We are very excited for the day when these babies hatch! Watch this space! (It’s going to be a looong wait!)