Zoo tor­toise dies at 150+

Af­ter a long de­cline, Speed is eu­th­a­nized at San Diego Zoo.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Tony Perry tony.perry@latimes.com

Sad news from the San Diego Zoo: The Galapagos tor­toise Speed has died.

At an es­ti­mated age of more than 150 years, Speed had been in geri­atric de­cline for some time, with arthri­tis and other mal­adies. Keep­ers treated him with med­i­ca­tion, hy­drother­apy, phys­i­cal ther­apy and even acupuncture.

Fi­nally, a de­ci­sion was made Fri­day to eu­th­a­nize Speed, who had been at the zoo since 1933.

He was brought to the zoo as part of an early ef­fort to pre­serve the en­dan­gered species from the Vol­can Cerro Azul Is­land of the Galapagos Is­lands, off Ecuador.

For years, Speed and other Galapagos tor­toises lived at the Chil­dren’s Zoo, where young­sters were al­lowed to ride them. ( A prac­tice long since aban­doned.)

In 2010, the mas­sive, lum­ber­ing her­bi­vores — the males can weigh more than 500 pounds — were moved to a new $ 1- mil­lion habi­tat near the reptile house.

Although tor­toises do not get the public no­tice of charis­matic ver­te­brates such as pan­das, koalas, ele­phants, po­lar bears and big cats, they do have their own fan base.

Mem­bers of the San Diego Tur­tle and Tor­toise So­ci­ety are fre­quent visi­tors to the habi­tat, keep­ing tabs on each tor­toise by its num­ber ( Speed was 5) and per­son­al­ity. Speed, in his ear­lier decades, was an al­pha male and given to butting his leath­ery head with other males in dom­i­nance skir­mishes.

With Speed gone, the zoo has 13 Galapagos tor­toises. The group has pro­duced more than 90 off­spring sent to other zoos, many of them sired by Speed.

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SPEED was brought to the zoo to pre­serve the en­dan­gered species. He helped pro­duce more than 90 off­spring sent to other zoos.

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