Aldabra tortoises are among the largest in the world – sometimes weighing in at over 500 pounds! Anyone who has spent any amount of time with them will tell you that each one has a distinct and very interesting personality. In fact as a zookeeper, one of my favorite animals to introduce visitors to is the tortoises because I never get tired of seeing people fall in love with them.
The Oakland Zoo has six Aldabra tortoises ranging in age from 40 years old to more than 100 years old! Gigi – one of our middle aged tortoises (she’s about 80 years old) received a wound on her shell last year after one of the male tortoises was little rough in his mating ritual. Turtle shells take a VERY long time to heal and require x-rays to monitor the progress. Just try x-raying through the shell of a giant tortoise. It’s not easy and requires very special equipment -the type of equipment that we haven’t had on zoo grounds.
Last year, in order to monitor Gigi’s progress, we had to take her all the way to UC Davis where she could have a CT scan on their larger and stronger equipment. The scan showed us that our treatment was working, but now it is time to check on her again.
Moving a giant tortoise is no easy feat! It requires several people to lift and move her. Then we need a van that she will fit in and it has to have climate control because reptiles are ectothermic. Of course, it is also stressful on her to be removed from her group, make a two hour drive to Davis, be put into a large machine for the scan and drive two hours back to the Zoo afterwards. That’s a pretty crazy day for a tortoise.
If Measure A1 passes this November, our new veterinary hospital will be outfitted with a brand new high powered x-ray machine – one that will be capable of going through a giant tortoise shell. This means that Gigi will have a five minute drive to the hospital and be finished in less than an hour – rather than taking a full day! A great deal less stressful for her, which means improved animal welfare!
Gigi says “Vote YES” on Measure A1!