Caretakers at Corbin Local Wildlife Park in Mason Hall, Tobago, were in celebration mode last month when one of the two female yellow-footed tortoises, in the park’s conservation breeding programme, laid four eggs.
Given it was a first for the park when it comes to breeding the species, the egg-laying event created quite a stir.
The park’s caretaker and tour guide, Michael Corbin, recently spoke to Newsday about the event and why the park’s efforts are important towards conserving the species in Tobago.
Corbin said, “We weren’t expecting the eggs, actually, we were still getting them acclimatised to their enclosures and so on. So, I think the eggs were a bit of a surprise of us.”
Since last year, the park has been home to three yellow-footed tortoises (one male and two females) for its conservation breeding programme.
Explaining why the species was selected, Corbin said overhunting in Tobago has led to a decline in its population over the years.
Typically found in forested areas, the species also faces further pressures from deforestation and habitat fragmentation.
Habitat destruction not only leads to species dislocation but also disrupts food and water supplies which are essential for the species to thrive.
Since being laid in February, the park estimates the eggs will take anywhere between three and four months to hatch.
Asked how the eggs will be cared for, Corbin said, “First, what happens in the wild is they will lay the eggs above ground and cover them with leaves.
“It’s a similar thing we’ve put together. We have the eggs in a separate location, and we’ve covered them with leaves.
“We continue to check on the eggs and make sure that the area it’s not too warm or cold for them.”
When this batch of eggs hatch, Corbin said the hatchlings will be kept at the park and added to the breeding programme.
In the future, the park hopes to breed a viable number of the species to have sufficient animals to release into the wild to fulfil the programme’s ultimate goal of increasing the number of yellow-footed tortoises found in the wild in Tobago.
The yellow footed tortoise is just one animal species currently in the park’s conservation breeding programme.
Other animal species endangered by overhunting, in Tobago, in the park’s conservation programme include the tatou (nine-banded armadillo) and the wild hog (quenk).
People interested in supporting the park’s conservation efforts can find more information on its website: tobagowildlife.com or call 327-4182.