Giant shellebrations for new arrivals

The biggest living tortoise to walk the earth has arrived at ZSL London Zoo – albeit in a slightly smaller shell than people would expect.

Galapagos tortoises

Four juvenile giant Galapagos tortoises have moved to the world’s oldest scientific Zoo, as part of a European-wide conservation breeding programme and have been named after four of the iconic Galapagos islands; Isabela, Santiago, Cruz and Cristobal. 

Currently weighing in at a svelte 2kg each, the youngsters have a long way to grow, and will eventually tip the scales at around 400kg.  

The group of three-year-old Galapagos tortoise siblings (Chelonoidis nigra) recently arrived from Zurich Zoo in Switzerland and can now be seen exploring their new territory at ZSL London Zoo’s Attenborough Komodo Dragon House. 

Eager shell-seekers can now spot the gentle-giants-to-be as they explore their new home at a leisurely 0.3mph - sampling their new pond and finding cosy spots in the foliage to nestle into and just like the unique chain of Pacific islands where they originate, the Zoo’s exhibit is kept at a balmy 27°C year-round. 

Joe Capon, zookeeper at ZSL London Zoo, said: “Our new giants have quickly made themselves at home – they’ve particularly been enjoying the wild dandelions and leafy greens we grow especially for them on-site at ZSL London Zoo. 

“They may be small now, but these four Galapagos tortoises will get to around 400kg as they reach adulthood like our other giant tortoises Dolly, Polly, Priscilla and Dirk.

“We’re excited for visitors to be able to see a different stage in the amazing life of a Galapagos tortoise – they’re slow growers, but this incredible species continues to grow through their whole lives, which can last an incredible 200 years.  It’s a real eye-opener to see how small they are now and compare this to how big they will become.”

The world’s longest-living species of vertebrate, Galapagos tortoises are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are strictly protected on the Galapagos islands, where they are threatened by wild predators who dig up and eat their eggs. 

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