24 November 2002
LAST week I went to a birthday party for a truly amazing old creature. Harriet, rare Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise, celebrated her 172nd birthday at Australia Zoo on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
“Harriet is regarded as the oldest creature living in captivity of any species anywhere in the world,” said Zoo spokeswoman Tina Grieve.
Harriet was collected as a specimen by Charles Darwin while he was exploring the Galapagos Islands in 1835.
She was aged five, and the size of a dinner plate, when Darwin took her back to England. Seven years later, she was relocated to Brisbane’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
Despite her age, Harriet is in excellent health and her keepers believe she may beat the world record for the oldest tortoise: 189 set by a male tortoise captured by Captain James Cook and given as a gift to the King of Tonga.