Giant tortoise celebrates 44 years at Bristol Zoo

A giant tortoise is celebrating spending 44 years at a British zoo.

Biggie first arrived at Bristol Zoo on December 24 1975, which means he has been at the 183-year-old zoo longer than any other animal.

His arrival in Bristol coincided with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody at number one in the charts, and milk being just 5p a pint.

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

Biggie enjoys a shower
Biggie enjoys a shower

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, as 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 (177kg).

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

Biggie the tortoise
Biggie the tortoise

Tim Skelton, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the zoo, 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 39 stone (250kg) 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.