Giant Tortoises to Summer at Connecticut's Only Zoo

Mon, 05/28/2012

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - May 28, 2012 - Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo is kicking off its '90 Days of Summer' celebration in a big way with the arrival of two giant tortoises. Thanks to Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, TX, "Professor," a Galapagos tortoise weighing 416 pounds, and "Skipper," an Aldabra tortoise weighing a whopping 537 pounds, will make Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo their home for the summer. More than 100 employees from Diageo's North American headquarters arrived at the Zoo this week to build a summer "vacation home" (also known as a new exhibit) to house these endangered animals. These gentle giants are expected to go on exhibit today.
"As we thought about ways we could celebrate our 90th birthday in a big way, we instantly knew that bringing these enormous creatures here would be perfect," explained Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo Director Gregg Dancho. "Not only are they a huge hit with visitors of all ages, they live incredibly long lives. In fact, Skipper is celebrating his 90th birthday this year, too!"

These amazing reptiles are the largest tortoises in the world, with lengths exceeding five feet and weighing up to 650 pounds, but do not reach their full size until they are 40 years old. Galapagos tortoises are from islands about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, South America. Shell size and shape vary between populations. On islands with humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with domed shells and short necks, perfect for eating low growing vegetation. On islands with dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller, with "saddleback" shells and long necks, which allow them to reach for their meals. They are one of the longest lived vertebrates, living over 100 years in some cases. Unfortunately, Galapagos tortoises are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. Of the 13 known species of Galapagos tortoises, only 11 are left today.

Because Galapagos tortoises are cold blooded, their body temperatures adjust to the environment they live in. Basking in the sun helps to warm them up and they sleep nearly 16 hours per day. The tortoises at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo graze on grass and enjoy the occasional apple and head of lettuce, as well. Thanks to a slow metabolism and the ability to store large amounts of water, these reptiles can go for up to a year without food or water.

Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo is closer than you think and is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Adult admission (ages 12 & older) is $12.00, children (ages 3 -11) and senior admission (62 and older) is just $10.00, and children under 3 years old are free. Zoo members are also admitted free. Parking at the Zoo is free of charge. For information, call: (203) 394-6565. Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo is located at 1875 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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