Newquay Zoo has just become home to a critically endangered big-headed turtle, which not only has a very large head in comparison to its body, but a striking neon stripe that runs around its shell.

Once it reaches maturity, the big-headed turtle – which has yet to be sexed – will grow to around 40cm long, however this young reptile currently measures less than 5cm from head to tail. 

Unlike most other turtles, its large head means that big-headed turtles can’t pull their heads back into their shells to protect themselves. Instead, these turtles are equipped with razor-sharp hooked beaks to protect them, which are so strong that they can crush human bones.

The big-headed turtle is native to Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. However, reports suggest that the population of the species has decreased by 90% in the last 90 years and is now considered as critically endangered. 

This decrease is down to a number of factors, including habitat pollution, climate change, loss of habitat due to intensive farming and development, the pet trade and even for use in some traditional medicines. 

Simon Pratley, Keeper at Newquay Zoo, said: “Big-headed turtles are really struggling in the wild, so I am really glad that we can introduce this fascinating species to our visitors and highlight the issues threatening its survival.”

Newquay Zoo is part of Wild Planet Trust, a charity dedicated to helping halt species decline. Alongside this big-headed turtle, Newquay is also home to 35 other critically endangered species, including black and white ruffed lemurs, Javan magpies and Visayan warty pigs. 

The new big-headed turtle is on display in the Tropical House at Newquay Zoo, which is home to a range of reptiles and amphibians, as well as sloths and tiny mouse deer.