Beastly Beat
Big Al the Aldabra Tortoise

The Alexandria Zoo's involvement with Aldabra tortoises began in May of 1975 when "Big Al" arrived at the zoo. "Big Al" was one in a truckload of tortoises being imported from Canada by an animal dealer and there were no birth or health records for the animals. The Alexandria Zoo's animal collection at that time consisted of retired circus animals, orphaned pets, tigers with rickets, quite a few lions, and a multitude of white-tailed deer, so acquiring a healthy giant tortoise was very appealing. During this time detailed record keeping was not a required procedure, and most small zoos did not have the staff necessary to maintain or research such records. This is why Big Al's age can only be estimated. His estimated age is over 60, but he could live to be over 150 years old.

Big Al now has many companions in the new pen in the African exhibit. Some are Aldabra tortoises and some are Galapagos tortoises. You can tell a difference in the shells. During winter months, Big Al and the other tortoises may not be out on exhibit since they cannot endure cold temperatures. However, visitors can still see them because there is also an indoor enclosure for them.

Over the years many additional giant tortoises have been transferred to and from the Alexandria Zoo, but Big Al has remained a permanent resident. He has been a zoo favorite since his arrival at the Alexandria Zoo and his life here has reached across generations. Grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren all gained an appreciation for this magnificent species.

Click here to learn more about Aldabra Tortoises.