Oakland Zoo Gets Fast Turtles

By Matt Baume
|  Thursday, Sep 30, 2010  |  Updated 1:37 PM PDT
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Wildlife of Elkhorn Slough

Oakland Zoo

Pancake Tortoise is fast

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Are you fast enough to keep up with the Oakland Zoo's brand new pancake tortoises?

Oakland's newest residents are named Mrs. Butterworth, Maple and Flapjack, and share an enclosure with some docile plated lizards. They came from the Brooklyn Zoo, which is currently experiencing a small explosion in its tortoise population.

Mrs. Butterworth, Maple and Flapjack are the fastest species of tortoise on Earth, zooming along at a surprising clip whenever they feel threatened. Due to their strange, flattened shape -- hence the name -- they're unable to depend on their shell for protection.

But the shell shape affords them a unique defense mechanism. Pancake tortoises are able to stack themselves into tight crevasses in rocks, evading predators by piling on top of each other.

They're recognized as having a conservation status of "vulnerable," in part because the confined shell limits egg production to one at a time.

The pancake tortoises join quite a menagerie over in the East Bay. Among their neighbors: hammerkops, burrowing bullfrogs, a bobcat, a warthog, various boas and hissing cockroaches. And during the day, a whole bunch of curious humans.

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