Speed the 150-year-old Galapagos tortoise dies at the San Diego Zoo

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Sad news from the San Diego Zoo: The Galapagos tortoise Speed has died.

At an estimated age of more than 150 years, Speed had been in geriatric decline for some time, with arthritis and other maladies. Keepers treated him with medication, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, even acupuncture.

Finally, a decision was made Friday to euthanize Speed, who had been at the zoo since 1933.

He was brought to the zoo as part of an early effort to preserve the endangered species from the Volcan Cerro Azul Island of the Galapagos Islands, off Ecuador.


For years Speed and other Galapagos tortoises resided at the Children’s Zoo, where youngsters were allowed to ride them. (A practice long since abandoned).

In 2010, the massive, lumbering herbivores — the males can weigh more than 500 pounds — were moved to a new $1-million habitat near the reptile house.

While tortoises do not get the public notice of charismatic vertebrates such as pandas, koalas, elephants, polar bears and big cats, they do have their own fan base.

Members of the San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Society are frequent visitors to the habitat, keeping tabs on each tortoise by its number (Speed was 5) and personality. Speed, in his earlier decades, was an alpha male and given to butting his leathery head with other males in dominance skirmishes.

With Speed gone, the zoo has 13 Galapagos tortoises. The group has produced more than 90 offspring sent to other zoos, many of them sired by Speed.