June 3, 2011 -
Knoxville Zoo invites fans of Al, one of the zoo's giant Aldabra tortoises, to pick up a few pointers
from a real ladies man on Friday, June 3, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Viewers can watch Al woo his new lady
friends from his point of view via the "Al Cam", a tiny wireless video camera attached to his shell with Velcro™. The
video will stream in real time on the Knoxville News Sentinel's Web site at www.knoxnews.com/zoo/tortoise/.
Last week, Al and his buddy Tex were introduced to two comely female tortoises named Patches and Corky who are
visiting Knoxville on a breeding loan. The last time Al had a lady companion was in 1983, and it's estimated that Tex
hasn't been with a female tortoise since the late 1980s. As soon as Al entered the exhibit with the girls, he immediately
put the moves on Patches and sparks flew.
"The "Al Cam" will give viewers the chance to get a rarely seen glimpse into the courtship and breeding of giant
tortoises from Al's perspective," says Michael Ogle, assistant curator of herpetology and the lead matchmaker.
"Because they are so rarely bred in the U.S., we want to make sure zoo visitors have the chance to continue seeing
Aldabra giant tortoises. And everyone loves a good romance story where the guy gets the girl."
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.
Special thanks to the Knoxville News Sentinel for
their help with this special project.
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.