When caring for a species as long-lived as the Galápagos tortoise – the oldest on record reached 175 years –everything is protracted! After a clutch of eggs was carefully excavated from a nest site within the tortoise habitat, a 110-day artificially-controlled incubation ensued to give this endangered species the best chance of a successful hatch.

Every egg is treated as though it may hatch, so is taken to an incubator and given all the things these eggs need to hatch successfully – moist substrate, high humidity and a stable temperature of around 30 degrees Celsius, a temperature likely to influence the development of the eggs to be female – important for the breeding programme.


Breeding Tiny Giants - Part 1

Watch as ectotherm experts Don and Sonja explain the science that goes into caring for baby Galápagos tortoises!

“Diligently, we check the eggs every single day. One very lucky keeper, in a sort of morning haze, looked in an incubator first thing and he couldn't quite believe it himself. There were four baby tortoises peeking out of their of their eggs!” Curator of Ectotherms, Don McFarlane explains.

Watch our story to get a glimpse of the complex husbandry required for juvenile Galápagos tortoises, including regular monitoring of their development and keeping close control of their environment – ensuring optimum humidity, temperature and lighting. Tortoises hatch equipped with everything else they need to survive, and in the wild would naturally have no parental interactions, so the job of our dedicated ectotherm keepers is to ensure they have a habitat, climate and diet that will allow them to thrive.


Breeding Tiny Giants - Part 2

Watch as our experts create the ultimate environment for these young tortoises and witness their first moments exploring their new home!

In part two of this series, we explore the science involved in designing a habitat that allows our visitors a special glimpse at these tiny giants, whilst ensuring all their complex environmental needs are met.  How does one do this? Through research, international consultation with other Galápagos tortoise breeders – including the Charles Darwin Centre in the very islands after which the tortoises are named - and cross-team collaboration in the zoo to bring together all the necessary skills and expertise.

Ectotherm keeper Sonja Murray shows us how to bring together all that science and research – with UV lamps, a humidity and temperature gradient, and using fantastic technology like thermal cameras and data loggers!

“It's just unreal to look at these tiny little, miniature versions of the adults, they could be on the Earth for another 180 years! Just to know that they're going to see so much in their lifetime, but I was a little piece of it!” Sonja says.

Watch our two part series to see our ectotherm experts create the ultimate environment for these young tortoises, and witness their first moments exploring their new home!