SHELL-o There! Oakland Zoo Welcomes New Tortoises Rescued from the Illegal Wildlife Trade

Oakland Zoo
March 9, 2022
The two teenage Aldabra tortoise rescues arrive for treatment at Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital

Oakland, CA – March 9, 2022… Last Friday, Oakland Zoo welcomed two teenage male Aldabra tortoises needing medical care and a forever home. Both neglected and malnourished these males were confiscated from a roadside zoo in Oklahoma and rescued by Wildcare Foundation in April 2021. After initial treatment at Wildcare, the staff worked with the Chelonian Taxonomic Advisory Group, part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), to find suitable permanent homes for the tortoises found.

“We take a lot of pride in giving rescues a home here at Oakland Zoo. While there are more animals in need out there than we have the space and the caregiving capacity for, we’re thankful to be able to give at least some of those rescues the best quality of life possible," says Nik Dehejia, CEO at Oakland Zoo.

During their initial intake, the Aldabra teens have shown their Oakland Zoo caregivers a glimpse into their personalities – one of the boys is shy while the other is very interactive with Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital staff.

Dr. Alex Herman, VP of Veterinary Services at Oakland Zoo, welcoming the Aldabra tortoise rescues

We’re excited to welcome these boys to the family. We’ve administered many tests such as bloodwork, x-rays, viral testing, checking for parasites, and administering any necessary treatment,” says Dr. Alex Herman, VP of Veterinary Services at Oakland Zoo.

Oakland Zoo is no stranger to taking in rescues from the illegal wildlife trade. The vast majority of the Zoo’s animal residents are rescues and many of those rescues were victims of this multi-billion-dollar industry.  Animals confiscated by officials at SFO and the Port of Oakland have been brought to Oakland Zoo for treatment, care, and permanent sanctuary over the years.

Tortoises on their way to Oakland Zoo

Many animals victim to the illegal wildlife trade were poached to be sold into the exotic pet industry. Tortoises can reach over 120 years old, most often outliving their owners. They can get quite large, reaching up to 550 pounds, and need space as ample as the Zoo’s Aldabra habitat to accommodate them. Buyers often cannot adequately or correctly care for these animals, resulting in neglect and unnecessary suffering.

Before accepting these two new Aldabra tortoises, Oakland Zoo has been home to six Aldabra tortoises, bringing the total number to eight. The two new males will join their new Aldabra family in a half-acre habitat once they’ve fully quarantined and are deemed healthy at Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital.

Learn more on how you can join us in Taking Action Against the Illegal Wildlife Trade here.


Isabella Linares

Oakland Zoo

Office: 510-632-9525 ext. 239

Erin Harrison

Oakland Zoo

Office: 510-632-9525 ext. 120



Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community in Taking Action for Wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.


The Aldabra giant tortoise is the second largest tortoise species, second only to the Galapagos tortoise. They have high, domed shells that are dark brown or gray. Hind legs are cylindrical and columnar like the legs of an elephant. Thick, often bony scales cover the anterior surface of the foreleg. Toes are short; two-jointed. Snake-like neck and legs are retractile. The tiny, pointed head is covered with scales. The high domed gray shell can measure up to 56' in length. Males can weigh up to 560 pounds, while females average 350 pounds. Males have longer, thicker tails.