Giant tortoises are mainly herbivores, eating grasses, leaves, buds, and shrubs, however they won’t refuse some occasional animal-based food, such as insects or carcasses. They find most of the water they require in their food, as water is not common to their habitats.
Habitat destruction, illegal trade
Giant tortoises live long – in the wild, it is estimated that they live 100 to 150 years, and in captivity, they live even longer. In 2006, a giant tortoise died at a Calcutta Zoo. They believed that he had been born around 1750, meaning that he lived until the age of 250 years old! The giant tortoise remains from several species of similar tortoises which lived in the Indian Ocean but were hunted by passing sailors and became extinct in the wild. Giant tortoises are also endangered because of their limited distribution.
The giant tortoise exhibit was established with support from the Zoo Friends Organization in honor of former Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kolek, of blessed memory, who was the Zoo’s number one fan. Teddy Kolek served as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 until 1993. Throughout his tenure, as well as the following years, the zoo held a special place in his heart. He saw it as an important meeting place in the city, for its residents and for those who visited. Among other things, he saw the zoo as a meeting place for all people, regardless of religion, nationality, gender, or race. The decision to establish the giant tortoise exhibit in his honor, expresses a symbol of his vision. During the planning for the zoo in its current location, Teddy envisioned the zoo eventually becoming a center of activity in the topics of nature conservation, open to all. Teddy’s vision continues to materialize over time. The giant tortoise exhibit also requires vision and long-term consideration. Despite their size and life expectancy, the giant tortoise is in danger of global extinction, and activities at zoos around the world all work to ensure continuity of this picturesque species.
The Aldabra giant tortoise exhibit was established in 2008 with support from the Zoo Friends Organization. The tortoises were donated by Zoo Friend Owen Griffith of Mauritius.
Photo: Shai Ben Ami