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Remembering Patches

Zoo Atlanta is saddened to announce the passing of Patches, a female Aldabra giant tortoise, on February 5, 2022. The Animal Care and Veterinary Teams had been treating Patches in recent days following changes in her physical condition and behavior, including lethargy, fluid build-up, lack of appetite, and weakness. A CT scan revealed multiple heath concerns, including a large mass in her body cavity. With concern for her quality of life, the teams made the difficult decision to euthanize Patches on February 5.

Patches arrived at Zoo Atlanta in 1994 from another accredited zoological organization, and in her nearly 28 years at Zoo Atlanta, introduced countless Zoo Members and guests to her charismatic species, which is the world’s second-largest tortoise species. While her actual age is not known, Patches was estimated to have been in her 70s to 80s.

Zoo Atlanta is also home to two other Aldabra tortoises, male Shuffles and female Corky, also believed to be in their 70s to 80s. Although the Aldabra tortoises are the oldest animals at Zoo Atlanta, Patches was likely considered middle-aged for her species, which can live over 100 years.

“We are very saddened by the loss of Patches. She was a wonderful link for so many people to the fascination of reptiles and to the key role that tortoises play in their ecoystems wherever they are found,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. “It is not difficult to make connections with an animal such as a gorilla or a giant panda or a giraffe. Some people find it more challenging to connect with reptiles, which makes Patches’ legacy all the more extraordinary. She had a personality on par with her size, and she will be dearly missed.”

Aldabra tortoises are eclipsed in size only by their Galapagos Islands cousins, with males weighing an average of 300 pounds; females, around 200 pounds. As one of the largest reptiles at Zoo Atlanta, Patches was a highly visible ambassador not just for her species, but for the fragile ecosystem it represents. Aldabra tortoises, which are currently classified as Vulnerable, are now found only in the islands of Aldabra Atoll, located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of eastern Africa. Aldabra Atoll is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A necropsy, or the non-human equivalent of an autopsy, will be performed through the Zoo’s partnership with the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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