Timmy the tortoise dies aged 160 - FaunaClassifieds
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Herps In The News Local or national articles where reptiles or amphibians have made it into the news media. Please cite sources.

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Old 04-09-2004, 06:11 AM   #1
Clay Davenport
Timmy the tortoise dies aged 160

A tortoise who was a ship's mascot in the Crimean War has died at his Devon castle home at the age of 160.
Timothy, who was first discovered on board a Portuguese vessel in 1854, was thought to be the country's oldest resident.

He lived at Powderham Castle near Exeter and was owned by Lady Gabrielle Courtenay, 91. He arrived there fully-grown in the late 19th Century.

The castle's Rose Garden had been his home since 1935.

He was also believed to be the oldest Mediterranean Spur Thighed Tortoise in existence.


TIMOTHY'S TIMELINE
Found Aged 10 (1854) - Paddington station opens
Aged 26 (1870) - First postcard sent
Aged 46 (1890) - Electric underground railway opens
Aged 60 (1904) - Peter Pan premieres
Aged 67 (1911) - King George V coronation
Aged 77 (1921) - British Legion formed
Aged 96 (1940) - Food rationing introduced
Aged 156 (2000) - New millennium celebrated

Timothy, who weighed 11 pounds (5kg), was found 160 years ago on board a Portuguese privateer by Captain John Courtenay Everard of the Royal Navy, a relative of the 10th Earl of Devon.

He then stayed aboard a succession of naval vessels until given a life ashore in 1892 and was looked after by the members of the Courtenay family ever since.

In recent years, he wore a tag reading: "My name is Timothy. I am very old - please do not pick me up."

Lady Gabrielle Courtenay is aunt to the present 18th Earl of Devon, who lives at the castle.

During his stay, Timothy showed a keen instinct for survival, even digging his own air raid shelter under a set of terrace steps during World War II after feeling the vibrations of bombs in Exeter.

This year he emerged from hibernation as usual in February, but was suffering from colds and had developed breathing difficulties.
Tim Faulkner, general manager at Powderham, said Timothy had passed away at some point over the weekend.

He said: "He had been quite frail lately, so it was no great surprise, but we are all very upset. He has always been part of the furniture."

About a decade ago a bid was launched to get Timothy into the Guinness Book of Records as Britain's oldest animal, but it was unsuccessful because his age could not be verified while he was alive.

Mr Faulkner said he hoped that the world-famous tortoise, who had never visited a vet until last year, could now get a posthumous mention.
Built over 600 years ago, Powderham Castle is the historic home of the Earl of Devon.

Lady Devon said he would be very much missed.

She said: "He could recognise people's voices and would respond to you.

"He was also 'solar panelled', as he was very active in the summer.

"You could call him, and he would come and say hello and have a strawberry."

He is to be buried at a family funeral in the grounds of the castle.

Powderham has another tortoise named Timmy Two, who is still a youngster at just 65. But there are currently no plans to move him into Timothy's old home.
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/3607053.stm
 
Old 04-10-2004, 03:02 AM   #2
Glenn Bartley
Do you really think he could have been that old? If that is true - wow!
 
Old 04-10-2004, 04:18 AM   #3
Clay Davenport
Personally, I believe he most likely was that old. I give more credibility to this story than a couple of others I've heard because of it's source.
This tortoise appears to have a well documented history and comes from a place where that history is easier to keep intact.
The British don't take their history lightly, they keep track of things, and this was no less true in 1854.
It would be interesting to hear the rest of the story, particularly details of his 38 years in the navy. This is the only place to me that a discrepency could have arisen. It says he was on a succession of ships, but doesn't mention if that also involved a succession of caretakers.

It does say the tortoise was found by a relative of the 10th Earl of Devon, and then was retired to Devon castle 38 years later, so it appears some sort of family tie remained through those years. This too adds a bit of credibility for me.

As for the basic idea of a tortoise living 160 years, I fully think that's possible. Time moves at a different pace for a tortoise. I've always believed they were the longest lived creatures we have on earth, if given the opportunity to live out their lives to the fullest.
 
Old 04-10-2004, 05:22 AM   #4
Glenn Bartley
Clay,

The thing I wonder about is that this was a royal pet so to speak. If it had ailed, or died, it may have been replaced with one that looked very similar, to please the royalty. Sort of like doing the switch-a-roo on a kid who loses his/her favorite pet, and this tortoise was probably a curiosity and not much more, that would be seen roaming about in the yard from afar and sometimes fed a strawberry up close (are castle grounds considered yards?). But who knows! Many tortoises are rather long lived, but I still wonder - especially in light of the recent long lived parrot story that was out and about from the other side of the pond.

Amazing though to think that one of these tortoises might easily live through 3 generations of your family. Talk about long term are commitments.....Get this when it is 10 years old and when you are 10, and you pass it one when you pass at 80. It is now 80 years old. It is also now left to another 1o year old child who then passes it on when he passes at 80. It is now 150 years old. It the would have another 10 years to live with the next person to whom it was left to make 160. Wow!

I have a musk turtle that is about 8 years old or so. I understand they can live to 40 or 50 years old. I thought that was a long term commitment, but a tortoise with a life span like this would be amazing. Guess what, I have been contemplating buying a Herman's or a Greek. The Greeks are the Mediterranean Spur Thighed, if I am correct. I may have to reconsider. Then again, maybe I can implant a healthy regard for tortoises in y son, and someday in my grandchildren, who knows. My son is ready, I do know that.

Well, whatever, this was a nice happy tortoise story. I loved it. Kind of makes me all warmed by the sun and scaly all over. I don't know where you find em, but keep posting em.


All the best,
Glenn B
 
Old 04-10-2004, 10:02 AM   #5
herpcondo
The intresting thing to me is...:

The intresting thing to me is kinda funny, and sad at the same time,,,
Everything i have read about ships and sea travels back then state they raided every island they came across for the turtles and tortoises for food,, When there was no refrigeration, and even salted meat would spoil to some degree, they took tortoises, and placed them on the ships in the thousands,, they were added ballast until they were eaten,, and they provided the men with fresh meat. The tortoises could be fed very small amounts of food, and could be kept "stacked" until they were needed for food. They also provided quite a but of meat for there size. They claim that is one of the main reasons for the low numbers of golop tortoises as it was near a major trade route, and easy picking for the sailors, and the pirates,,
So i guess my question is really simple,, on a ship full of hungry sailors,, how did the tortoise just not "disappear" and end up in the bellies of some of the crew..? I mean if you have ever read about the sailers of that time,, even in the british navy they were very very underfed, and always hungry,,, I guess the tortoise shoudl be glad it was under the care of "royalty"...

I would like to believe the story is true,, As it makes for a great story, and what a great way for the tortoise to live its life to the fullest...
 

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