Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Harriet the tortoise dies at 176 years old

CNN reports:

Harriet, a 176-year-old tortoise, has died in an Australian zoo.

History is sketchy about how she entered captivity, what is known is that she spent a few years in Britain before being moved to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens in Australia's tropical Queensland state in the mid-1800s, where she was mistaken for a male and nicknamed Harry.

The Queensland-based zoo is owned by "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin and his wife Terri.

"Harriet died last night," senior veterinarian Jon Hanger told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday. "She'd been sick yesterday with heart failure. She passed away quietly overnight."

"She is possibly one of the oldest living creatures on the planet and her passing today is not only a great loss for the world but a very sad day for my family. She was a grand old lady."

Despite her longevity, however, Harriet is not the world's oldest known tortoise. That title was awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records to Tui Malila, a Madagascar radiated tortoise that was presented to the royal family of Tonga by British explorer Captain James Cook in the 1770s. It died in 1965, age 188.

Fascinating fact to throw into a lagging conversation: ET's facial features were based on those of a tortoise.


Skep said...

It's also believed that Harriet was the tortoise brought to England for study by Charles Darwin... I'm unsure on the correctness of this, as it's just something I've heard across the Internet, but it would be a far more than fascinating fact if it was true.

Major Look said...


THE world's oldest animal in captivity has died on the Sunshine Coast at the ripe old age of 176.

Giant Galapagos tortoise Harriet has died of a suspected heart attack.
She was a star attraction at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo since the 1980s and even features in the Guinness Book of Records for her longevity.

Her history is as colourful as the hibiscus flowers she lovingly munched on.

It is believed Harriet was one of three animals naturalist Charles Darwin brought back from his trip to the Galapagos Islands in 1835 and which led to his theories of evolution and natural selection.

A few years later, Sir Charles gave them to a Brisbane-bound friend.

For about 100 years Harriet was mistakenly thought to be a male.
At 176, Harriet was recognised as the world's oldest living chelonian - a reptile with a shell or bony plates.

Mr Irwin said he considered Harriet a member of the family.

"Harriet has been a huge chunk of the Irwin family's life," he said.

"I have grown up with this gorgeous old girl and so have my kids.

"She is possibly one of the oldest living creatures on the planet and her passing today is not only a great loss for the world but a very sad day for my family.

"She was a grand old lady."

brett jordan said...

i left out the darwin link as it seems there is some doubt over its veracity...

from the article I linked to

"However, historical records, while suggestive, don't prove the claim, and some scientists have cast doubt on the story, with DNA tests confirming Harriet's age but showing she came from an island that Darwin never visited."

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