Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Taronga Western Plains Zoo

June 13, 2011 -- Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia welcomed the nation's first home-born Galapagos tortoise on March 19, 2011.

Now, at more than a month old, the hatchling is a mere three inches long and weighs just three ounces.

Galapagos tortoises are known for their massive size. Males can grow up to six feet long from head to tail and weigh more than 500 pounds. It takes between 20 and 25 years for the species to reach full size and sexual maturity. Adult tortoises have been known to live more than 150 years, according to the San Diego Zoo.

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Galapagos tortoises rose to fame through Charles Darwin, who identified that each subspecies of Galapagos tortoise has unique physical traits that helps it thrive, depending on the climate and conditions on the different Galapagos Islands.

The giant, slow-moving tortoises were food for early explorers and sailors to the islands. This custom combined with the introduction of non-native species, such as dogs and cats, that prey on turtle eggs contributed to a decline in population, according to the San Diego Zoo, which has one of the largest breeding programs in the world for the Galapagos tortoise.

There are between 10,000 to 15,000 Galapagos tortoises living in the wild. Thanks to recent conservation efforts, there has been an increase in the population. They are listed as a "vulnerable species" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

SEE ALSO: Galapagos Tortoises Thriving as Plants Face Threat

It took nearly 10 years for the Taronga Western Plains Zoo Galapagos tortoise breeding program to have its first successful hatchling. The baby tortoise will be on display to the public shortly.