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National Zoological Garden receives PAAZA Conservation Award for its endangered tortoise breeding project

The National Zoological Garden (NZG) in Pretoria was awarded the Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA) Conservation Award, at the association’s conference in East London on 2 and 3 August 2023. 

The award is in recognition of the dedicated efforts of NZG Reptile Park team members Chadané Pretorius (conservation officer) and Kabelo Segodi (conservation worker), who have successfully bred critically endangered African pancake tortoises (Malacochersus tornieri) at the garden. This distinction underscores their passion for advancing biodiversity conservation, husbandry and awareness.

As reportedly the first institution in South Africa to achieve the successful breeding of this species, the NZG has chalked up a significant milestone with the addition of new four hatchlings. This accomplishment stands as a testament to the NZG’s commitment to fostering biodiversity and adopting sustainable conservation practices.

This unique African species has very specific husbandry requirements, and the incubation of these tortoise eggs is a long and complicated process, underscoring the significance of the team’s success in breeding them. 

The new baby African pancake tortoises will directly contribute to the genetic viability of the worldwide captive breeding (or ex-situ) conservation efforts for this species and its studbook, which is a record of all the pancake tortoises currently in captivity worldwide. The garden will also be exchanging some of its new offspring with international zoos in future, to maintain the genetic viability of the captive population.

Chadané and Kabelo have played a pivotal and hands-on role in ensuring the successful breeding of this species, which has brought local and international acclaim to the NZG and the South African National Biodiversity Institute. 

The PAAZA Conservation Award commends institutions that demonstrate exceptional determination in preserving the diversity of African species and ecosystems. This recognition not only emphasises the NZG team’s accomplishments but also underscores the impact of their contributions in shaping the trajectory of conservation.

“We are deeply honoured to receive the PAAZA Conservation Award, particularly during Women’s Month, as we recognise the outstanding contributions of Chadané and Kabelo,” stated NZG Reptile Park curator Michael Adams. “Their exceptional achievements inspire us all and reflect our ongoing commitment to fostering biodiversity and excellence in conservation.”