Gallery: giant tortoise at Zurich Zoo is mother at 80

A Galapagos giant tortoise at Zurich Zoo has become a mother again at the age of 80.

Gallery: giant tortoise at Zurich Zoo is mother at 80
Photo: Samuel Furrer/Zurich Zoo

IN PICTURES: nine babies hatched to Nigrita the giant tortoise at Zurich Zoo

Nigrita the tortoise conceived with her 54-year-old toy boy Jumbo late last year.

Her eggs were held in a special incubator at Zurich Zoo before nine baby tortoises hatched successfully between February and April, the zoo said in a statement on Tuesday.

Nigrita arrived at the zoo in 1946 and was thought to be around ten years old at the time.

The 100 kilogram tortoise was a late starter where motherhood was concerned, producing her first young in 1989.

In the 27 years since then the tortoise has produced around 300 eggs and hatched 91 babies.

Zurich Zoo is the only place in Europe where Galapagos giant tortoises are bred. The resulting young are given to some 15 institutions across the continent.  

An endangered species, Galapagos giant tortoises can live for more than 100 years, making them the longest-lived of all vertebrates, according to National Geographic.

After mating, a tortoise buries her tennis-ball-sized eggs in the sand, and young hatch some four months later.

The tortoises reach sexual maturity at around 25 years old and continue to grow until they are 40.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


EXPLAINED: Why a plan to shoot deer at this Basel City cemetery is causing a storm

A plan to shoot several deer who live in a cemetery just a few kilometres from the centre of Basel is causing a stir in Switzerland.

EXPLAINED: Why a plan to shoot deer at this Basel City cemetery is causing a storm
One of the deer at Basel's Hörnli Cemetery. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In May 2020, cantonal police in Basel City approved a request from city gardeners to cull several deer who live at the canton’s Hörnli Cemetery (Friedhof am Hörnli). 

Animal rights advocates have challenged the request, saying the deer should be protected. 

The cull has been suspended after an appeal was made to the Justice and Security Department of Basel City. 

The deer have lived at the cemetery – Switzerland’s largest – since it was built in 1926, although city records indicate that the deer population was “manageable” in the early days. 

The population has increased in recent years from 15 to 25.

The cemetery spans 54 hectares with space for 60,000 graves and is situated just metres from the Swiss-German border. 

Deer snacking on flowers at Basel's Hörnli Cemetery. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

‘A culinary paradise’ 

Advocates of the cull plan have said it is necessary for the ‘conservation’ of the cemetery. 

They argue the deer destroy gardens at the cemetery, leading to additional costs for maintenance. 

The risk of diseases its also increased due to the animal’s close proximity. 

In a plan more reminiscent of a spy thriller than a conservation effort, the ‘targeted kill’ is set to take place after dark which “should be done with silencers out of consideration for the peace and quiet of the grave and the adjacent living quarters.”

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports that the cemetery is a “culinary paradise” for the deer “with its variety of flowers and other plants”. 

‘Killing innocent animals just for eating flowers’

The animal advocates who launched the appeal gathered 18,000 signatures to suspend the effort. Among the supporters is French actress Brigitte Bardot, who wrote to the cantonal authorities demanding that the deer be protected. 

Fondation Franz Weber, which has been previously successful with animal protection efforts in the canton, has criticised the cull plan for “killing innocent animals just for eating flowers”. 

Private hunting is banned “as a matter of practice” in cemeteries all across Switzerland, said cantonal authorities. 

Switzerland is set to go to the polls in a referendum on hunting practices in September of 2020, although this is not related to the decision on the deer in the cemetery.