Galapagos Tortoises

RIVERBANKS ZOO (WJBF) – It’s time for another edition of Wild Encounters.  This week, Micah Rumsey gets up close and personal with one of the few animals that can both outweigh and outlive you…the Galapagos Tortoise.  Here’s a look at his conversation with Senior Herpetologist at Riverbanks Zoo, Kathy Vause.

Micah: Welcome back to another edition of Wild Encounters. I’m here with Kathy, a senior herpetologist, and one of my absolute favorite animals at the zoo, the Galapagos Tortoise. First of all Kathy, tell us a little about these animals and what specific two animals we’re looking at right here.

Kathy: Well, these are Galapagos Tortoises from the Galapagos Islands. This big male is named Bravo and this is a little female named Alberta.

Micah: These are very, very big animals and you may not at home even realize how big these animals get. Eventually, once they grow, how heavy are these things?

Kathy: Well, Bravo weighs in at about 600 pounds. Little Alberta is about 200.

Micah: The other thing these animals are known for is obviously their age. Galapagos Tortoises live a long time, so tell us a little bit about how long an animal like Bravo could live.

Kathy: They don’t even know really the upper limits of their lifespan. They’re guessing it might be 200 years…over 200 years, but they haven’t been following a tortoise that long. The longevity record right now, I believe, is 185 years. We think that Bravo and two of the other tortoises we have here are probably around 115. So they came in to the country in the 1920’s and they were young adults then, so we can just kind of estimate their age.

Micah: So you could say a Galapagos Tortoise is a pretty good investment for a zoo because you’re going to get this animal and it’s going to outlive the both of us and outlive you at home. So some of these animals you may see here at Riverbanks Zoo are something that your kids, your grandkids, your great grandkids could eventually see when they come to the zoo. So this is a protected animal and part of that is wanting them to procreate and so we can increase their numbers and some people at home maybe asked…there’s duct tape on some of the shells. So, can you just give us the honest reason as to why there’s duct tape on these shells.

Kathy: We kind of use it as a band-aid. The two females get their shell abraded away when the males are courting them. They will actually climb up on the female’s shell and just the constant wear and tear of the big males legs across the top of their back wears away at the outer covering which is rather thin and so we want to protect them from going any deeper. So we found over the years that duct tape works pretty good.

Micah: So one more use for duct tape in Galapagos Tortoise mating to keep the females together. So a very cool animal, we can even see this little tiny one that…this tiny little Galapagos Tortoise will eventually grow to potentially this size right here of Bravo who has been absolutely spectacular just sitting here posing for us this entire time, so thank you Bravo. Thank you Kathy for this amazing animal and you can come down here and get a behind the scenes look at their completely revamped behind the scenes tour here at Riverbanks Zoo. Some come on, check out Galapagos Tortoises. We’ll see you next time.