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Keeper Stories – Thursday, May 4

This past Saturday was another eventful day in the Herpetology Department! It is now warm enough for the giant Aldabra tortoises to be back outdoors all day and night, so President Shuffles, Patches and Corky, have moved back into their home at Scaly Slimy Spectacular!

During the colder months of the year they live in the greenhouse habitat next to the blue cranes. Inside the greenhouse it is very warm. They need higher temperatures year-round, as they come from the warm Seychelle Islands of the Indian Ocean.

Being a zookeeper can at times be physically challenging. For example, our lightest Aldabra tortoise weighs over twice as much as I do! So, most of the Herpetology Team had to help with the move. The new habitat is on the opposite side of the Zoo, so they have to be transported by a vehicle. We used a large van from our vet staff for the ride. It takes strong teamwork to carry and lift the tortoises into the van. After the tortoises are safely loaded inside the van, we drive up to a gate very close to their habitat in front of Scaly Slimy Spectacular.

Our two females, Patches and Corky, are lighter, so it only took four keepers to assist them into the habitat yard. But since Shuffles is so much bigger, we needed five people! Luckily one of our extremely nice maintenance technicians was willing to step in!

A really nice thing about the habitat yard at Scaly Slimy Spectacular is the big pond. One of Shuffles’ favorite things to do is soak. He is usually the first one in the pool. I often catch him taking a nap in the water. But he will usually come out of the pond if you offer him a veggie snack. Whatever he does, he does it on his own time! I can’t blame him, though, if I could live to be as old as a giant tortoise, I would take my time too! Shuffles, who is estimated at around 60 years old, is still relatively young (as far as giant tortoises go!) He weighs close to 350 pounds now, but male Aldabras can average around 550 pounds, with some getting well over 600 pounds! We may have to find a few more maintenance folks to help us when he gets that big!

Be sure to look for President Shuffles and his entourage at Scaly Slimy Spectacular next time you’re at Zoo Atlanta!

Ashley Taylor
Keeper II, Herpetology

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