Thursday, August 4
If you’re planning to visit the reptiles and amphibians at the Zoo, be sure to check out our Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea). They are most active in the morning hours and spend time walking around grazing in their yard. By the warmer midday hours they can be seen cooling off in the mud pit (that they made for themselves) or in the pond.
In addition to grazing the lawn, the Aldabras are fed two huge salads a week! Their salads include a variety of greens, veggies and a little bit of fruit. The animals here eat better than the keepers most of the time it seems!
One of their favorite activities is to walk through or sit in a freshly laid-out salad before they start eating it (Shuffles especially). The rest of the week they graze on grass in the yard (my lawnmowers). They also get snacks during the Wild Encounters that are offered every day except for Thursdays and Sundays. As a part of the Wild Encounter, guests get to feed sweet potatoes (one of their favorites) to the tortoises!
As the giant tortoise keeper, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is: “How much do they weigh?” Well, just last week we weighed them, which we usually only do once a year.
Shuffles (our male) weighed 327 pounds; Patches (the bigger female) weighed 232 pounds; and Corky (the smaller female) weighed 203 pounds! Even though they seem very big right now, they are still growing. Males can easily get up to 500 pounds and females can get up to 350 pounds! The heaviest Aldabra recorded weighed 794 pounds!
We led the tortoises towards the scale by a trail of small bits of sweet potato and then picked them up (at least four people per tortoise) and placed them on the scale. Weighing them allows us to stay up-to-date with their growth rates and overall well-being. These tortoises will actually never stop growing their entire lives! Most of them live to be at least 100 years of age, and there have been some known to live to be over 200 years old!
Here’s a little info for you about each of our Aldabra giant tortoises:
Shuffles: Even though Shuffles is very large, he is still a younger tortoise. He’s thought to be in his 50s. Shuffles’ estimated hatch year is 1965 (we don’t know his exact age). He has a flatter shaped shell than the girls, and he is the largest. He is laid back, but don’t get between him and his salad. He is serious about his salads! He loves his pond and will soak in it for hours at a time.
Patches: She has a very distinguishable patch on the front of her shell made of fiberglass. Patches is a superstar! She is the most willing to participate in the Wild Encounters. We believe Patches is the oldest of the three. She could be up to 80 years old! I don’t want to say I have a favorite, but if I did, it would be Patches.
Corky (Corkscrew): She is the smallest of the three. Corky’s estimated hatch year is 1965. She has a very sweet face, and her neck is curved due to a birth defect. She will usually look at you with her head tilted sideways. She’s a little shy, but warms up to people in small doses.
The Aldabras are some of my favorite individuals here at Scaly Slimy Spectacular. They were some of the very first animals I got to work with. I am happy that I get to see them every day. They are very personable and are some of the few reptiles that seem to enjoy having some human interaction. They appear to like neck scratches the most. So come visit them, and if you want to get closer, sign up for an Aldabra giant tortoise Wild Encounter where you will get to interact up close with the tortoises and feed them for yourself!
Keeper I, Herpetology