At long last, love is in the air for two old tortoises from the Knoxville Zoo. Al and Tex, a pair of male Aldabra tortoises aged 130 and 90, respectively, have been living the bachelor lifestyle for the last few decades -- but thanks to a little matchmaking from the facility's reptile expert, the duo are getting another chance at romance. Recently, the two males were introduced to a couple of females tortoises on loan from a zoo in Atlanta, and it didn't take long for the sparks to fly.Al is the zoo's oldest and largest male tortoise; at 130-years-old, he weighs in at approximately 550 pounds -- but despite his well-fed appearance, Al's been starved of one thing in particular. The last encounter Al had with a lady tortoise was back in 1983, the year his female companion died. Since then, Al has been sharing his enclosure with another long-time bachelor, Tex, who at age 90, hasn't seen a female since the late 1980s. But despite the perks of singledom, the two tortoises were enlisted to help preserve their species -- by getting down to business and making babies.
For Michael Ogle, a herpetologist from the Knoxville Zoo, the aging males' genes were just too good to not be passed on to a new generation of tortoises. So, following a little matchmaking diplomacy, Ogle was able to track down three females tortoises from facility in Atlanta: Patches, Corky.
After letting the females grow accustomed to their new enclosure in Knoxville for a few months, last week Al and Tex had the chance to meet their new roommates. KnoxNews has the lowdown on what happened next:
For eager Al, it was lust at first sight. He moved much faster than stereotypical tortoise pace to mate with Patches. Tex, who crawls slowly because of an arthritic-like leg condition, later showed at least passing interest in Corky and Patches.
While the girl tortoises are smaller, each still weighs 200 to 250 pounds. Their ages - an estimated 60 to 70 years - don't hamper their reproductive chances. Female tortoises can lay more than one clutch of five to 15 eggs during the breeding season. Zookeepers would remove the baseball-size eggs from nests dug in the exhibit to incubate them.
Aldabra giant tortoises are classified as a threatened species, native to the Seychelles. The species is amongst the longest living on the planet, with at least one individual reputedly having reached the age of 255. Thanks to the effort of breeding programs, like the one being implemented at the Knoxville Zoo, the species is likely to be around for future generations.
And, with any luck, Al and Tex will leave behind a legacy to last until then.
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