The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : After Spending Months Indoors to Keep Warm, 100-Year-Old Tortoise is Finally Able to Have His Day in the Sun

Saturday, May 30, 2015

After Spending Months Indoors to Keep Warm, 100-Year-Old Tortoise is Finally Able to Have His Day in the Sun

The 100-year-old, 450-pound Galapagos tortoise at the Toledo Zoo was moved from the Ziems Conservatory to his new home with an enviable view at the rear of the formal gardens.

But his neighbors, the gorillas, might be a tad on the noisy side at times.

No matter: Emerson has a “mud wallow” area where he can go when he needs to relax or cool down, said R. Andrew Odum, the Assistant Director of Animal Programs and Curator of Herpetology at the zoo.

The big move started early on Tuesday, when Emerson was lured from his winter home in the conservatory with a carrot by Hannah Gerritsen, a herpetology keeper — who let him have an occasional nibble so he’d move forward a few inches at a time.

Once he was coaxed outdoors into the warm sun, Emerson was lifted onto a makeshift dolly by four men.

“He is not light,” one of the men said.

As they wheeled Emerson, he used his front left foot like a paddle, as if helping to propel himself. Before reaching his destination, he had to be adjusted several times.

It seemed as if he might have preferred to walk. But zoo officials might still be out there if they had let him do that. He doesn’t move swiftly, to say the least.

His new enclosure is blocked off from the public by a low fence of wooden posts and rope, over which visitors can easily see him.

A zoo employee will be at the Galapagos Garden to make sure that no visitors climb the rope and slip through the fence. The bodyguard can explain what Emerson is up to, Odum said.

After being in his new space for just moments, Emerson had drawn a crowd.

Willah Hoeleze watched with 9-year-old friends, Elin Fields, Anna Ellingson and Maddie Heben.

Willah guessed that Emerson weighs “900 trillion pounds,” then settled on a more reasonable 1 million pounds.

“I think he’s really cool and slow,” she said.

The girls agreed that their favorite thing about Emerson is his neck.

“I like how it stretches out,” Elin said.

They were most impressed with his age, though.

“He’s older than Nana,” Elin noted.

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