Two rare Madagascar big-headed turtles given new home at Jersey Zoo

The freshwater species, which can only be found on the African island, is thought to be one of the most endangered types of turtle in the world. Credit: Matt Goetz/Durrell

Jersey Zoo has become the first zoo in the British Isles to show two rare Madagascar big-headed turtles to the public.

The freshwater species, which can only be found on the African island, is thought to be one of the most endangered types of turtle in the world.

An adult female at a breeding centre in Madagascar. Credit: Matt Goetz/Durrell

In 2019, the two turtles were transferred to Jersey after having been confiscated from smugglers in Hong Kong a year earlier. After they arrived the pair stayed behind the scenes to grow accustomed to their new surroundings. Now, they live in an area that was renovated for them in the zoo’s Reptile and Amphibian House. The turtles are not yet fully grown, but will eventually reach up to half a metre in length.

A Madagascar big-headed turtle hatchling. The species can reach up to half a metre in length. Credit: Matt Goetz/Durrell

Since 1998, Durrell has been running a conservation programme in Madagascar to ensure the survival of the country’s largest freshwater turtle. It is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List, which means it is in danger of extinction in the wild, due to habitat loss and unsustainable fishing techniques.

We are extremely proud to finally be able to show this very special turtle to the public at Jersey Zoo. So many years of dedicated conservation work in Madagascar, in one of our longest-standing projects, makes this a little milestone. I am sure visitors will appreciate seeing this magnificent species.

Matt Goetz, Durrell’s Head of Herpetology.

As part of Durrell’s Madagascar Programme, conservationists breed and then release large juvenile big-headed turtles into protected areas. The team also works with local communities throughout the north-west of the island to encourage the use of sustainable fishing techniques and protection of aquatic wildlife.