Roti Island Turtles: Birth Of Two Endangered Turtles Surprises Sea Life Center Staff In England [VIDEO]

By Josh Lieberman on August 26, 2013 12:25 PM EDT

roti island turle
The birth of a pair of Roti Island turtles at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham, England, surprised staff last week. A critically endangered species, about 250 Roti Island turtles live in captivity. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The sudden arrival of a pair of Roti Island snake-necked turtles, one of the rarest species in the world, shocked the staff of the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham, England, when the two tiny creatures showed up in a tank last week.

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"The first we knew of it was when we came in one morning and found these two youngsters swimming around," said Sea Life Centre curator Graham Burrows.

The Sea Life Centre staff hadn't realized the Roti Island turtles' mother had laid eggs in the tank. Burrows thinks the mother may have hidden eggs the sandy bottom of the tank until they hatched. The arrival of the pair of Roti Island turtles is a rare event; there are only 250 of the turtles living in captivity.

Roti Island turtles are critically endangered. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the greatest threat the Roti Island turtle faces is illegal harvesting for the illegal pet trade, which drove the turtle species to the brink of extinction. Trade of the Roti Island turtle was banned in 2001. In their natural habitat of Roti Island, Indonesia, the only place the turtle is found, the turtle faces the threat of habitat modification, chemical pesticides and being eaten by pigs.

The Roti Island turtle, scientific name Chelodina mccordi, is unusual for its signature long, snake-like neck. Unlike other turtles, the Roti Island turtle doesn't pull its head straight back into its shell, but folds it in sideways. Its long neck grows to between 7 and 9 centimeters -- the size of its shell.

The two new Roti Island turtles will be fed a diet of bloodworm and shrimp, and will soon be put on public display at the Birmingham Sea Life Centre.

Below, watch a couple of Roti Island turtles swimming around in Dusseldorf, Germany.

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