250-Year-Old Tortoise Dies [AP 2006-03-24]
250-Year-Old Tortoise Dies
CALCUTTA, India (AP) -- One of the world's oldest creatures, a giant tortoise believed to have been about 250 years old, has died in the Calcutta zoo where it spent more than half its long life.
Addwaita, which means “the one and only'' in the local Bengali language, was one of four Aldabra tortoises brought to India by British sailors in the 18th century.
Zoo officials say he was a gift for Lord Robert Clive of the East India Company, who was instrumental in establishing British colonial rule in India, before he returned to England in 1767.
Long after the other three tortoises died, Addwaita continued to thrive, living in Clive's garden before being moved to the zoo in 1875.
“According to records in the zoo, the age of the giant tortoise, Addwaita, who died on Wednesday, would be 250 years approximately,'' said zoo director Subir Chowdhury.
That would have made him much older than the world's oldest documented living animal: Harriet, a 176-year-old Galapagos tortoise who lives at the Australia Zoo north of Brisbane, according to the zoo's Web site. She was taken from the island of Isla Santa Cruz by Charles Darwin in the 19th century.
Aldabra tortoises come from the Aldabra atoll in the Seychelle islands in the Indian Ocean, and often live to more than 100 years of age. Males can weigh up to 550 pounds.
Addwaita, the zoo's biggest attraction, had been unwell for the last few days, said local Forest Minister Jogesh Burman,
“We were keeping a watch on him. When the zoo keepers went to his enclosure on Wednesday they found him dead,'' Burman said.