Admiral the tortoise springs to his 106th birthday
Durban – Admiral the tortoise at Mitchell Park Zoo has a spring in his step as his 106th birthday approaches.
The legendary giant tortoise celebrates his birthday this month and, as the flowers came into bloom in the park with the official start of spring yesterday, Admiral has also been raising the temperatures of the three female tortoises who live with him in his pen.
Mitchell Park Zoo curator Joanne Marais said despite his age, Admiral, an Aldabra tortoise native to the Seychelles, remained a busy boy with the ladies.
“Admiral is very active, which is incredible. People from all over the world come to visit. We have a New Yorker who comes every year and brings him lettuce leaves,” said Marais.
Plans are already under way for a big fruit cake to be made up for Admiral’s 106th birthday.
His diet consists of a variety of fruit and veg and he often has a hankering for hibiscus and mulberry leaves.
And despite his swagger for the ladies, Admiral may be getting a bit of a creak in his joints. Marais said they were raising funds to have underfloor heating for the cold winter months.
“We want a proper enclosed room as a sleeping area, with a roof and floors which have heating underneath. During winter, tortoises slow down and sleep a lot.”
But now the temperatures are rising, Admiral can be found cooling off in the pond.
“It’s amazing. He loves lying in the water and puts his head under the water for more than a minute,” said Marais.
Admiral is the country’s oldest tortoise and was dropped off at the park in a cigarette box by a naval officer in 1915, as he was leaving for the World War I battlefront. He asked the zoo to keep his tortoise safe until his return, but he never came back.
Admiral went on to become one of Durban’s key tourist attractions over the last century.
But while Admiral may be regarded as one of the oldest tortoises in the world, he is still a spring chicken compared with the current record holder, Jonathan, who has reached the ripe old age of 184 in St Helena.
Last year, Jonathan received his first bath in May, ahead of a royal visit to the tiny island.
His caretaker Dr Joe Hollins described the hour-long scrub: “‘We gave him a good scrub as we are expecting a royal visitor who is going to meet him so we want him to look his best.
“He looks so much cleaner and he seemed to enjoy the whole experience.
“Jonathan stood like a statue when I was washing him, I don’t know whether that was the vibrations he found soothing or he was thinking: ‘At last, I’ve had my first bath.’”