Breeding efforts for this tiny species of tortoise continue at the Jerusalem Zoo and are not without challenges. In 2015, 3 eggs were successfully incubated at the zoo and hatched, however only one tortoise survived to join our breeding group. This low rate of reproductive success – even under optimal conditions – contributes to the species’ decline in the wild when combined with external factors such as habitat destruction.
In 2015 our research continued – in conjunction with other research institutions such as Kansas State University – to build the knowledge base regarding this rare and little-known species. Research covers possible release sites and whether a viable habitat exists in Israel in which to release these animals; pathogens within our breeding core to ensure that disease is not brought into an ecosystem upon release; and of-course ongoing genetic research to confirm that the individuals in our breeding core are the same sub-species as those found in the wild within the release area (this is such a rare species that very little is known about genetic differences between small populations spread throughout Egypt and Israel). These questions need to be answered before the Israel Nature and Parks Authority will grant us permission to release individuals back into the wild.
We hope to be able to bring you more positive news in our next report. Wildlife conservation programs are often time-consuming efforts that take place over the long term and every small step forward should be viewed as a success.
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