Nigrita, an 80-year-old tortoise who resides at the Zurich Zoo in Switzerland recently, had nine little hatchlings! You might think that is quite old to be having babies, but for a tortoise, it is just the opposite!
It is a fact that giant tortoises are one of the longest-living vertebrates on earth. They have a life expectancy of over 100 years with the oldest recorded tortoise being 152-years-old.
Tortoises live long lives in part because they have a slow metabolism and large internal stores of water. This allows them to go up to a year without food or water. They nap for an average of 16 hours a day and enjoy a diet of grasses, leaves, and other leafy greens.
The incredible creatures are, unfortunately, on the endangered species list. Many years ago, they were hunted as food by pirates, whalers, and merchantmen. It was during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries that up to 100,000 tortoises were killed for their meat. Now feral animals are a threat to their food supply and their eggs.
Nigrita, and her 54-year-old mate Jumbo, and the nine babies are safe at the Zurich Zoo. They are all part of a breeding program that is designed to protect the species from extinction. Because of this program, these amazing creatures may have a chance of living until the year 2216.
Tortoises weigh between 4 and 5 ounces at birth. Fully grown, both male and female tortoises can weigh up to 700 pounds.
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