A 130-year-old Aldabra giant tortoise — the oldest resident at Vienna Zoo — has died after almost seven decades in the Austrian capital.
The giant tortoise named Schurli, born on an island of the Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles died at the age of 130 on July 11.
According to zoo authorities, Schurli was a huge piece of the Tiergarten Schonbrunn Zoo’s history and the oldest resident at the zoo where he spent 68 years of his life.
“Schurli had lived with us since 1953. Many zoo visitors knew him for almost forever. His exact age was not known, but it was at least 130 years,” zoologist Anton Weissenbacher said.
Weissenbacher said Schurli was taken care of by generations of animal keepers who built a special relationship with the giant reptile.
“Schurli had a strong personality and was adorable and stubborn. He enjoyed being petted on the neck,” zookeeper Maximilian Schon said.
Schon also said Schurli could mostly be found soaking in cold water or lying under the lawn sprinkler during the summer.
“When it came to food, he preferred juicy cucumbers and dry leaves. They were like chips to him — only healthier.”
Schurli’s health worsened in recent years, due to his age, and he was under close observation by the zoo’s vets.
The “old guy,” as zookeepers called him, lived in the terrarium enclosure along with a male tortoise named Menschik and a female called Madi.
During his long life, Schurli gained some oracle experience during the 2016 UEFA European Championship, after which he was taken under the protection of then-Vienna mayor Michael Haupl, who became his sponsor the same year.
Schurli was also an advertising model and took part in a 2019 study focusing on the intelligence of Aldabra giant tortoises.
Since Schurli’s death, Menschik has taken over the role of the Tiergarten Schonbrunn Zoo’s oldest resident. Menschik arrived shortly after Schurli and is considered to be slightly younger, per the zoo.
An Aldabra giant turtle ages up to 150 years old.
The Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) is one of the largest tortoises in the world, the second after their larger relatives on the Galápagos Islands. It is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
The big creatures were severely threatened between the 17th and 19th centuries by sailors who used to hunt them for meat and oil. Now, they are struggling against habitat destruction and predators, such as rats and cats that eat their eggs, and competition for grazing with goats.
The Aldabra giant tortoise is now protected by breeding programs on the island of Mauritius.
(Edited by Angie Ivan and Fern Siegel)
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