BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — They don’t move very fast, but you’ll have to to see the African spur thigh tortoises at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo.
The five hard-shelled behemoths — the largest of all mainland tortoises — will only be at the zoo from now through part of the fall.
“Attendance at the Zoo soars each summer, so it’s a great time to bring such special animals here as our temporary guests,” said Zoo Director Gregg Dancho. “Tortoises also love summer heat, and the spur thigh tortoise is particularly well-adapted to hot temperatures.
“Also there is the educational message that these wonderful animals do not make good pets! Make wise not wild choices!"
Spur thigh tortoises are the third largest species of tortoise in the world, after the Galapagos tortoise and the Aldabra giant tortoise.
Spur thighs are known to push and knock over heavy objects, often other spur thighs. They are generally slow moving, however, to conserve energy.
They dig burrows in the ground to take shelter from their harsh, hot habitat with some tunnels extending 10 or more feet underground.
Adult tortoises average 18 inches in shell length and they can weigh in at a whopping 70 to 100 pounds. Specimens reaching two to three feet in length are not uncommon.
Spur thigh tortoises are able to go weeks without food. In the wild, they mainly eat grasses and leaves of desert scrub and get the water they need from the plants they eat.
African spur thigh tortoises’ conservation status is listed as vulnerable, due to habitat loss and over collection for the pet trade.
Beardsley Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.beardsleyzoo.com.
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