BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 11:57 GMT
175th birthday bash for tortoise
Harriet the Galapagos tortoise - 15/11/05

A zoo in Australia has held a 175th birthday party for one of the world's oldest known living creatures, a Giant Galapagos tortoise.

Australia Zoo, where the tortoise has lived for the last 17 years, marked the day with a pink hibiscus flower cake.

Although the animal's exact date of birth is not known, DNA testing has indicated its approximate age.

Some people believe the tortoise, known as Harriet, was studied by British naturalist Charles Darwin.

Darwin took several young Giant Galapagos tortoises back to London after his epic voyage on board HMS Beagle.

DNA testing has suggested the giant creature was born around 1830, a few years before Darwin visited the Galapagos archipelago in 1835.

However, Harriet belongs to a sub-species of tortoise only found on an island that Darwin never visited.

Plate to table

At the time of Darwin's visit, Harriet would have been about as big as a dinner plate. She now weighs 150kg (23 stone) and is roughly the size of a dinner table.

According to the BBC's Phil Mercer, in Sydney, Harriet has become somewhat of a celebrity at the Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

She receives a thorough wash every morning and is fed a vegetarian diet that includes green beans and celery.

Her keepers believe she has survived for so long because she has enjoyed a stress-free life.




SEE ALSO
Alert sounds for turtles and tortoises
14 May 03 |  Science/Nature
Extinction nears for whales and dolphins
14 May 03 |  Science/Nature
Glimpse of Darwin's legacy
24 Sep 02 |  Sci/Tech
Glory of the Galapagos
22 Jan 01 |  Americas

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific