Hyderabad: Galapagos Giant Tortoise Is Being Oldest

Hyderabad: Know the oldest living creature in Hyderabad? In its enclosure at the Nehru Zoological Park, languidly chewing on carrots and cucumbers is the 125-year-plus-old Galapagos giant tortoise. Weighing more than 200 kg, it is also the oldest resident of the city zoo, having arrived here in 1969. Interestingly, keeping company with it is another Galapagos tortoise in the zoo, which is more than 90 years old!

These giant tortoises, listed as endangered species, which are eco-thermic i.e. cold-blooded, are known for their sedate and slow pace of living. They walk at a speed of 0.3 km per hour and have a large bony shell. The zoo officials agree that the 125-year-old Galapagos tortoise could perhaps be the oldest living species of Hyderabad.

“If we do not count age-old trees in and around the city, this tortoise must be the oldest being in the city,” says zoo curator N Kshitija.

The diet of the giant tortoise, considered the longest-living species in the animal kingdom, includes vegetables, fruits and pulses which they consume at their own pace. There is a great deal of history attached to Galapagos tortoises, which are the largest living species of tortoise and regarded the 13th heaviest living reptile.

Galapagos tortoises are native to the islands of Galápagos archipelago off the coast of Ecuador in South America and were spotted in 1835 by British naturalist Charles Darwin, who was said to have been left in amazement. It is this trip and his studies and observations of the flora and fauna that formed the genesis of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

The sex of these giant tortoises could be ascertained only when they are about 15 years old. According to available information, the oldest known Galapagos tortoise died in 2006 at an Australian zoo at an age of more than 170 years.

“Across the world, the population of Galapagos tortoises is dwindling and they are listed as endangered species,” says Kshitija.

At the zoo, the veterinary staff monitor their health regularly and take special care. “The health assessment is based mainly on their mobility and appetite. Their daily intake of food is monitored to keep a check on their health,” she says.

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