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Tortoises poised for long, slow lives at Brookfield Zoo

May 28, 2010 3:39:46 PM PDT
What would you name a Galapagos tortoise? How about four of them?Brookfield Zoo just introduced the four, who were born last summer, to the public. The tortoise quartet now needs names to carry them through their very long and very slow lives at Brookfield.

The tiny tortoises met their public in the perching bird house at Brookfield Zoo. On Tuesday morning, some lucky kids got a special up close and personal look at one of the four new residents here-- baby Galapagos tortoises, who will live large.

"Right now it's about the size of a hockey puck and at full size it should be somewhere around 450 to 500 pounds," said Mark Herbert, senior keeper Birds and Reptiles.

And live long.

"A hundred to a 150 (years) in the wild and longer than that in zoos," said Herbert.

The 6-month-old tortoises are just beginning their incredibly long journeys. For Brookfield Zoo, it's the return of some giants that haven't been around for a long time. And, it'll be years before their genders are known- and even longer before they will reproduce.

"They can start reproducing as early as twenty five years ... Umm, probably their peak reproductive ages would be between forty and ninety years old," said Herbert. "It's pretty amazing."

Right now, the tortoises are named 3,269; 3,270; 3,271; and 3,272. But zookeepers think these tortoises need better names- so they're asking children to chime in. Children ages 11 and can under submit their names- and a 50 word essay on why the name was chosen- at the zoo or by downloading the form at czs.org/nameatortoise. The form can then be mailed to:Name A Tortoise, Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, IL 60513. Further details are available at czs.org/nameatortoise.

"It's starting tomorrow and going through March 12th," said Jeff Mitchell, assoc. curator, Aquatics and Reptiles.

And just think: If any of these kids win the contest their great, great, great grandkids in 2160 can visit their special tortoise.


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