Galįpagos Tortoise Tragedy: Zoo Love Affair Ends after 115 Years

It was a marriage for the ages: Galįpagos tortoises Bibi and Poldi had spent more than a century together. But suddenly, after 115 years, they couldn't stand each other any more. This spring, they were separated -- perhaps for good.

Photo Gallery: Divorce after a Century of Love Photos
AFP/ Klagenfurt Zoo

Bibi and Poldi, a pair of Galįpagos tortoises in the Klagenfurt zoo in Austria, had been partners for over a century. Together, they lived through World War I, World War II and the Cold War. But then the drama began. Last autumn, an enraged Bibi attacked her partner, biting off part of his shell.

"We had to separate them," Helga Happ, the director of the Klagenfurt Zoo, told local paper Kleine Zeitung earlier this week. "We were hoping that that they would make-up during their first spring outing." But the hopes were in vain. All attempts to reconcile Bibi and Poldi have failed. "All of sudden, she just couldn't stand Poldi anymore," Happ said.

The turtles were born in 1897, grew up together, and later became a couple. They moved to Klagenfurt from the Basel Zoo in 1976.

Bibi's recent behavior has baffled experts. Nothing in the turtles' daily routines had changed; there was simply no explanation. "A university professor from Texas thought that Bibi may have become mentally unstable and couldn't recognize her partner anymore," said Happ. "But we conducted tests [on her], and everything checks out."

The Viennese daily Wiener Zeitung reported that the zookeepers attempted to control Bibi's aggression using a "Poldi-doll." Made of a mixture of stone and flour, the real Poldi's pheromones were sprayed onto it, and it was placed in Bibi's enclosure. But Bibi showed no interest in the dummy.

Though the breakup is sad, perhaps it can be attributed to a mid-life crisis on Bibi's part. After all, Galįpagos tortoises can live for 150 years or more.

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