24/12/2018

Giant tortoise Biggie celebrates 43 years at the Zoo

One of Bristol Zoo Gardens’ most popular animals is celebrating a special anniversary on Christmas Eve.

One of Bristol Zoo Gardens’ most popular animals is celebrating a special anniversary on Christmas Eve.

For it was 43 years ago on December 24 that Biggie, the giant tortoise, arrived. It means he has been at the 182-year-old Zoo longer than any other animal.

Biggie came to Bristol in the year Bohemian Rhapsody was released and petrol cost just 75p a gallon.

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

His exact birth date is not known but keepers believe he is more than 60 years old and he could be around for many years to come as Aldabra tortoises can live to more than 100 years old.

Adam Davis, senior keeper at Bristol Zoo, said: “So many of our visitors love Biggie. They love the fact that he is so big but he is also a gentle giant. No-one could imagine Bristol Zoo without him.”

Biggie will be marking his birthday by tucking into his favourite treat of red pepper, which he loves. His usual diet is hay, grass and various types of green leafy browse.

Aldabra tortoises can weigh up to 250kg (39 stones) and are so big that 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 were found on many islands in the western Indian Ocean, including Madagascar, but were driven to extinction through over-exploitation by an increasing number of settlers and European explorers.

Today the Aldabra giant tortoise is classified as Vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the Zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.

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