Galapagos tortoises can live more than 100 years and can weigh up to more than 400 pounds.
The two visiting the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium for the summer aren't that old, or that big. The male and female tortoises were born in 1992, and weigh in at 160 and 120 pounds. Both were born in captivity.
“All Galapagos tortoises are highly endangered,” said Ken Kaemmerer, curator of mammals for the zoo. “There’s only about 20,000 left in the wild.”
Their numbers declined because the large animals were used for meat and oil and their habitats cleared for agricultural purposes. But the biggest threat to the tortoises was the introduction of domestic goats, dogs and rats which fed on the tortoise eggs and nearly decimated the population, according to Kaemmerer. So, those in captivity help rebuild the population.
“We won’t be breeding them here; they’re here on temporary loan,” he said. “These guys are just coming into sexual maturity. They get sexually mature between about 20 and 25 years, so we won’t be breeding them here, but there are other zoos that do.”
These tortoises are on loan from Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland in Allenwood, Pa. Kaemmerer said efforts of zoos have helped the numbers of Galapagos tortoises rebound, but added they are still considered threatened and are under close watch. The visiting tortoises will be on display through Labor Day.