From Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
COLUMBIA, SC – One of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden's oldest residents isn't letting her age get in the way of motherhood. A Galapagos tortoise—believed to be more than 100-years-old—is now a new mom to 5 hatchlings.
The pocket-sized hatchlings were discovered—unexpectedly—Tuesday in the Galapagos tortoise exhibit.
"We had been hoping for this for some time but knew the tortoise's age could definitely be a factor with fertility," said Scott Pfaff, curator of herpetology at Riverbanks Zoo. "These hatchlings are of great importance, representing a significant addition to the captive population of Santa Cruz Galapagos tortoises."
The species is considered to be endangered. To date, there are about 10,000 to 15,000 tortoises living on the Galapagos Islands, which are located in the Pacific Ocean off Ecuador.
In addition to the hatchlings, Riverbanks is home to two adult males and two females, from Santa Cruz Island. The babies' mother, Alberta, came to the United States in 1951 as an adult; their father, Abrazzo, arrived in the country in 1928, also as an adult. Riverbanks acquired the pair in 1995.
Galapagos tortoises can live as long as 200 years and are the largest of the species—weighing up to 900 pounds.
The hatchlings are currently being cared for in a nursery at Riverbanks while keepers discuss possible plans for public display. In the meantime, guests visiting the Zoo can see the hatchlings' parents in the Galapagos tortoise exhibit—adjacent to the Aquarium-Reptile Complex.