How do you move someone that’s 120 years old and weighs 500 pounds?
Friday, August 2, 2013
Zoo Atlanta prepares for Aldabra giant tortoise swap with Knoxville Zoo
Most objects that are around 120 years old and weigh around 500 pounds stay in one place as they age, but Al is no object. He’s an Aldabra tortoise, and on Friday, August 2, he’ll be making a road trip.
Three years ago, Zoo Atlanta entered into a collaboration with Knoxville Zoo, which also houses the massive tortoises. Al and another male, Tex, have been residing at Zoo Atlanta on loan from Knoxville while Zoo Atlanta’s three females, Corky, Patches and Stand-Up, have been spending time in Tennessee. The hope is that periods of separation between males and females will renew their interest in breeding upon their reunions.
Tex and Zoo Atlanta’s resident male, Shuffles, will stay behind to become reacquainted with Corky and Stand-Up, who will be returning to Atlanta on August 2 as Al departs for Knoxville. Zoo Atlanta’s Patches will remain in Knoxville to welcome Al.
At moving time, Al may walk out of his corral on request with the promise of a tasty vegetable treat, but he will still need to be lifted onto a truck for transport. Moving a tortoise Al’s size typically requires the combined efforts of four to five grown men.
Found on selected islands in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, Aldabra tortoises are among the world’s largest tortoises and are some of the longest-lived animals on Earth. Al may have hatched as early as 1883, but he is believed to be at least 120 years old. Tex, believed to have hatched around 1923, is around 90. The youthful Corky, Stand-Up, Patches and Shuffles are only believed to be in their mid-40s.
The tortoises are part of the new Aldabra tortoise Wild Encounter program launched in spring 2013. Guests are permitted to go behind the scenes to meet, feed, and pet the giant tortoises; visit zooatlanta.org/wild_encounters for program details.