By Stephen Messenger, TreeHugger
Having children is one of the most important, life-changing decisions a person can make — and one endangered tortoise in particular certainly didn’t rush it. After many long decades of life unfettered by offspring, a zoo-kept Galapagos tortoise has delighted conservationists by finally embracing motherhood at 90 years old. The new mom, known as T3 by her keepers, had been attempting to breed for the last ten years, but she was only successful recently — with a male tortoise less than half her age. In other words, this tortoise is a cougar too.
The birth of a new Galapagos tortoise isn’t just a big deal for the new mother, it’s a positive step forward for the species as a whole. With only around 20,000 of the big tortoises left on the planet, any new additions helps ensure they’ll be around for future generations — and that’s precisely why T3′s keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Australia had been nudging her towards motherhood.
“We have been working towards breeding Galapagos Tortoise for almost 10 years and to finally achieve success is a testament to the dedication and animal husbandry expertise of the team,” said zookeeper Addy Watson in a statement.
While in human terms, 90-year-olds are more likely to be meeting their great-grandchildren than giving birth themselves, for Galapagos turtles it’s really not that old — considering the fact that they often live to be well over 150. The young tortoise’s father was quite a bit younger, a spry male aged 40. Still, raising the newborn to maturity will take a team effort.
Zoo officials say that since baby tortoises are usually left to fend for themselves, they’ve taken steps to ensure the tiny newborn is cared for and protected from any missteps from the grown ups, and it’s quite a long process with plenty of growth in store.
“The hatchling is currently only 0.033% the weight of our largest male. It will take approximately 20 – 25 years for this hatchling to reach full size. At just five years old it will still be only 30cm in length,” says Watson.
And, if everything goes well in the young tortoise’s life, it will have a long, long one to look forward to. Chances are it will still be alive and kicking in the year 2200.
Image credit: tourist_on_earth / Flickr