Cleveland, OH

The Cleveland Botanical Garden brings in Astrochelys radiata, the radiated tortoise

Angela Kervorkian-Wattle

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CLEVELAND, OH—The Cleveland Botanical Garden brings in Astrochelys radiata (Radiated tortoise), a critically-endangered tortoise species native to southern Madagascar, for viewing as part of their Madagascar Spiny Desert biome collection.

They borrowed three male radiated tortoises from Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, which arrived at the glasshouse in 2003 and 2009. The three tortoise names are Small, Medium, and Large, which are descriptive of their respective sizes.

The three radiated tortoises were captive-bred at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Texas. Each tortoise has a distinctive shape, pattern, and shell size. Small, aged 45, was born on 7/12/1976, he weighs 13 pounds and his distinctive trait is the flat top of his shell. Medium, aged 34, was hatched on 4/13/1987, he weighs 15 pounds and has the most symmetrical shell and the brightest pattern between the three. Large, aged 45, was born on 3/27/1976., he weighs 17 pounds, making him the heaviest. His shell is concaved in the top back left side of his shell, not due to injury, but due to lack of diet when he was younger.

Matt Edwards, Animal Care Specialist and their caretaker at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, said that tortoises need the correct vitamins, minerals, and ultraviolet light for their shells to develop properly. Each day during the winter, he rotates the tortoises for UV lighting bath in the glasshouse. During the summer they would gather in a large outdoor area where they would enjoy days of bathing in sunlight.

Matt's Friday morning routines start by buying fresh food for the tortoise. Tortoises need a variety of fresh greens, fruit, and vegetables for a healthy diet. Their diet consisted of kale, arugula, collard greens, dandelion, and Swiss chard. To balance their nutrition, Matt also gives shredded sweet potato and yellow squash, green beans, corn, butternut squash, broccoli, sweet peppers, and some tomato, and a dessert of sweets like banana, grapes, strawberry, melon, kiwi, or nectarine. Their diet needs to be observed carefully, since a poor diet can lead to health issues that may show up many years later.

King Malila (Tu'i Malila) was the oldest radiated tortoise on record, he was 188 years old when he died in 1966. It is said that he has been given to the queen of Tonga by Captain James Cook during his visit in July 1777.

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