Monday, January 19, 2009

Ancient animals

Feeling rather old myself this morning, my thoughts ran to Harriet, a Galapagos tortoise who died in June 2006 at the Australia Zoo owned by Steve Irwin (1962-2006) and his wife. Harriet had lived an astounding 176 years, old enough to have been one of the specimens collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle. Although Darwin collected 3 tortoises in the Galapagos Islands, Harriet wasn't one of them, having been collected from an island that Darwin didn't visit. But the point is that her life spanned generations of human lives. Harriet was believed to have been the one of the world's oldest living creatures.

To round things out, I have included photos of Darwin, Harriet, an unnamed tortoise being ridden at the Zurich Zoo, and a giant leatherback tortoise that came onshore to lay her eggs. Like elephants, tortoises maintain their dignity and command respect, despite their cumbersome bodies.

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