19/12/2019

Gentle giant Biggie celebrates 44 years at Bristol Zoo Gardens

Bristol Zoo Gardens’ gentle giant is celebrating a special anniversary on Christmas Eve.

44 years ago on December 24, Biggie the giant tortoise arrived, which means he has been at our 183-year-old Zoo longer than any other animal.

Biggie came to Bristol in 1975, when Queen’s 'Bohemian Rhapsody' was at number one in the charts and milk was just 5p a pint.

He lives with three other giant Aldabra tortoises: Helen, Twiggy and Mike.

They are each important because Aldabra giant tortoises are classified as Vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

Although Biggie’s exact birth date is not known, his keepers believe he is more than 60 years old and he could be around for many years to come - Aldabra tortoises can live for more than 100 years.

Biggie has a diet of hay and vegetables and he especially loves red peppers, yet he weighs in at a back-breaking 28 stone (177 kgs). 

Earlier this year, when he needed to undergo an internal examination by the our vet team, it took five people to lift him.

Tim Skelton, curator of reptiles and amphibians, said: “Biggie genuinely is a gentle giant and so many of our visitors love him. No-one could imagine Bristol Zoo without him.”

Aldabra tortoises can weigh up to 250kg (39 stones) and are so big they cannot withdraw their heads and legs completely into their shells. But on the islands where they evolved they did not need to use their shells as protection, as there were no predators.

They get their name from the Aldabra Atoll off the cost of the Seychelles and live off tropical grassland. In the wild they begin feeding early in the morning when it is cooler and when the dew is thick on the grass.

Giant tortoises, like Biggie, were found on many islands in the western Indian Ocean, including Madagascar, but were driven to near extinction through over-exploitation by an increasing number of settlers and European explorers.

Next time you're at Bristol Zoo Gardens, pay Biggie and his housemates a visit! Did you know you can also adopt him? For a truly unique gift - whilst contributing to our conservation fund - click here to adopt!

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