World’s second-largest tortoises
If you have visited Zoo Atlanta recently, you may know that the giant Aldabra tortoises are currently enjoying their outdoor habitat near Outback Station and their neighbors the wattled cranes (who have a new chick!). Since Scaly Slimy Spectacular is currently not available for our guests, we made sure you all could still see the Aldabra tortoises this season. With that being said, I have some exciting news to share with you all! Zoo Atlanta has re-opened our Aldabra tortoise Wild Encounters with COVID-19 safety measures.
Aldabra tortoises are the second-largest tortoise species in the world. They are some of the world’s longest living animals, with a potential lifespan of over 150 years! We currently care for three adults estimated to be at least in their 60s. We have one male, Shuffles, and two females, Patches and Corky. The male is the easiest to tell apart because of his larger size. Shuffles is currently “President of Zoo Atlanta” and always enjoys meeting his fans! Shuffles and Corky have been at Zoo Atlanta since 1967, and Patches arrived at the Zoo in 1994.
Our Aldabra tortoise Wild Encounter offers a great experience for our guests to get up close to the animals, while being able to offer them a small healthy snack. We also get to spend some quality time sharing with you Aldabra tortoise facts and answer any questions you may have.
Something I find interesting is how giant tortoises seem to enjoy getting their necks scratched by us and our guests. This might be because getting scratched by humans might feel similar to being cleaned by birds. While not as well observed in Aldabra tortoises, Galapagos tortoises (the largest tortoise species) are known for displaying a “finch” response, also known as “finching.” This is where tortoises stretch their necks out while standing up tall and remain very still. Small birds take this opportunity to get a free snack and land on the tortoises to pick off ticks, other parasites, and flaking skin. This as you can imagine helps both the birds and the tortoises.
Our main priority is our animals and guests, so we are offering additional safety measures to ensure everyone has a healthy experience to remember. We will all be practicing social distancing and wearing masks during the encounter, as well as rotating very small groups at a time to meet the tortoises. We will continue to provide hand sanitizer in between groups and after the encounter in over.
Funds from our Animal Wild Encounters go towards helping support Zoo Atlanta’s conservation efforts and our partners. Please note that advance reservations are required, so we are not able to accommodate encounters on a walk-up basis. Visit “https://zooatlanta.org/activity-type/wild-encounters” for reservations and scheduling. We and the Aldabras hope to see you soon!
Keeper I, Herpetology