A Scots man is thought to have hatched the first ever Egyptian Tortoise in Scotland.

Fraser Gilchrist has been taking part in a captive breeding programme aimed at saving the miniature tortoises from extinction.

There are estimated to be 7500 of the endangered species living in the wild, confined to a small coastal strip in Libya.

Egyptian Tortoises are threatened by pollution, habitat destruction and poaching – and illegally collected animals can still be found in Egyptian and Libyan markets.

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Fraser’s baby tortoise, which is no bigger than a 2p coin, was born in Cowie, Stirling on March 23.

He said this week: “I feel incredibly proud and privileged to have hatched this little tortoise – and especially since it’s the very first Egyptian Tortoise ever to be produced in Scotland.

“I hope to be able to swap some of the young I produce with other breeders of this species in the hope of diversifying my own group and thus safeguarding the long-term survival of this species.

“There are two other sites that house this species – Calderglen Zoo and another private keeper – but I am the first person to have bred them in Scotland.

“Edinburgh Zoo historically kept this species but never managed to breed them which is why I am so proud of this achievement.

“No name has been chosen yet, but my wife Deborah keeps calling him, or her, Tortoisekhamun after the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun.”

Fraser, 41, started off with four Egyptian tortoises from the reptile and amphibian conservation body European Studbook Foundation – one male (Giza) and three females (Suez, Alexandria and Sharm El-Sheikh) just before Christmas 2019.

He then added another two in September 2020 - a male named Luxor and a female named Cairo.

Fraser said: “At this stage it is impossible to tell whether this little one is male or female due to its diminutive size. It won’t be for another two to three years before I can tell.

“On the day of hatching the little one weighed 4g and measured 28mm in length and is a perfect replica of its parents.

“As this hatchling was a ‘surprise’ it is impossible to tell who the mother and father are.”

Fraser is also hopeful that more miniature tortoises will hatch over the next month or so.

He added: “I’ve been incredibly successful this past year with 16 eggs currently in the incubator from my four females.

“Incubation takes between 90 and 120 days and, depending on the conditions, the sex can be influenced by the temperature that the eggs are incubated at.

“I will shortly be applying for the legal paperwork to confirm that the new arrival was captive bred and not imported illegally from the wild.”