‘Grand old lady’ lived an epic life
News source: Sunshine Coast Daily, Saturday 24 June 2006
By Nathan Woulfe
THE grand old dame of Australia Zoo could be forgiven for being a bit slow, but time waits for no man – or tortoise.
Australia Zoo’s Harriet, the Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise, died early yesterday morning, surrendering the Guinness World Record she held as the world’s oldest living animal.
Harriet would have turned 176 in November. She was born in 1830 on Isla Santa Cruz, about 900 kilometres southwest of Ecuador.
After being collected by Sir Charles Darwin in 1835, she lived in England for a short period before relocating permanently to south-east Queensland.
The Galapagos Islands, Harriet’s natural home, have been attributed with spurring Darwin’s research into the Theory of Evolution.
Harriet took up her Australia Zoo lodgings in the mid-1980s, spending the final decades of her epic 175-year life on the Sunshine Coast.
She became a major attraction at the Zoo because of her affectionate nature nd colourful, historic past.
Not being one to hide from the spotlight, the world record holder would come out of her shell to celebrate her birthday with thousands of visitors each year.
Australia Zoo’s Steve Irwin said Harriet’s passing marked a sad day for his family and the world at large.
“Harriet has been a huge chunk of the Irwin family’s life,” he said.
“I have grown up with this gorgeous old girl and so have my kids.
“She is possibly one of the oldest living creatures on the planet and her passing today is not only a great loss for the world but a very sad day for my family.
“She was a grand old lady.”
Zoo veterinarian Jon Hanger said Harriet had been in very good health until the sudden onset of a heart-related illness on Thursday.
“She was a very old animal. Basically, her heart failed,” he said.
“The best we could do was make her comfortable.”
Dr Hanger said there would be a memorial constructed at the Zoo to commemorate Harriet’s long life.
“She will be very much missed. She had a lovely personality.
“There will be a lot of very upset people at the Zoo today.”