|Tortoises Returning to Knoxville Zoo For a Blind Date
|May 26, 2011 - When Al and Tex, Knoxville Zoo's giant Aldabra tortoises, return to
Knoxville Zoo this afternoon after spending the winter at Zoo Atlanta, they'll come home to a
bit of a surprise; two female Aldabra tortoises will be waiting to make their acquaintance as part
of a matchmaking effort by the zoo's herpetologists.
Zoo staff anticipate Al and Tex will welcome a little female company; the last time Al had a
lady companion was in 1983, and by best estimates Tex hasn't been with a female tortoise since
sometime in the late 1980s. When they arrive back in Knoxville today, they will share their
exhibit with Patches and Corky, two females on a breeding loan from Zoo Atlanta. Hopes are
that romance will blossom.
Al, who weighs in at close to 550 pounds and estimated to be 120 years old, and Tex, who's
estimated to be around 75 years old and weigh in the vicinity of 350 pounds, spent the winter at
Zoo Atlanta as part of a planned separation from the females, who came to Knoxville last
winter. To breed successfully, males and females must be separated for several months of the
year. Zoo herpetologists expect Al, the dominant male, to have the best chance of breeding, and
if the courtship is successful, hope to hatch youngsters by mid-to-late winter.
Only one other zoo in the U.S. is currently breeding Aldabra tortoises. In the wild, Aldabra
tortoises are found in only one place in the world, which is the Aldabra Atoll, located about 300
miles northwest of Madagascar. They are classified as a vulnerable species by the International
Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN). Their numbers dwindled to only about 1,000 in the
late 19th century due to excessive harvesting for food by ships passing the island, but have since
begun to rebound over the last century thanks to conservation efforts.
Knoxville Zoo is Knoxville's largest year-round attraction. Located off exit 392A from Interstate 40, the zoo is
open every day except Christmas Day. Knoxville Zoo is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and
Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation,
and education. Currently, the zoo is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and from 9:30
a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. Nextday
admission is free after 3 p.m. For more information, please call 865-637-5331 ext. 300 or visit www.knoxvillezoo.org.
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