Turtle 'marriage' ends after 115 years
Slow and steady may win the race, but it doesn’t necessarily preserve the marriage. Two giant tortoises at an Austrian zoo learned that the hard way, cutting off their long-term relationship after living together for 115 years.
Bibi and Poldi were both born around 1897, met soon after and later became a couple — meaning they’ve been together longer than any living human can remember. They previously shared space at Switzerland’s Basel Zoo, and have spent the last four decades cohabiting at Happ Reptile Zoo in Klagenfurt, Austria. Giant tortoises have some of the longest life spans in the animal kingdom, often surviving well into their second century.
But after more than a century of matrimony, things turned ugly in 2012 between the two turtles, as the Austrian Times reported. Rather than merely drifting apart with age, they became violent — Bibi especially, who first alerted zoo staff to the breakup by attacking Poldi, biting a chunk out of his shell. Following several more attacks, workers had to separate the former lovers, ultimately moving Poldi to a different enclosure. Giant tortoises don’t have teeth, but they do have strong, sharp jaws.
“[T]hey have been together since they were young and grew up together, eventually becoming a pair,” zoo chief Helga Happ said in 2012. “But for no reason that anyone can discover, they seem to have fallen out. They just can’t stand each other.”
Zoo officials say nothing about the turtles’ routine changed, suggesting Bibi had simply grown tired of her partner. “We get the feeling they can’t stand the sight of each other anymore,” Happ said. That hasn’t stopped staffers from trying to patch things up, though — they’ve reportedly tried couples counseling, engaging them in joint games and even feeding them “romantic good mood food,” all to no avail.
Fast forward to 2019 and zoo officials say Bibi still has no interest in getting back together with Poldi. So, they both enjoy separate lives within close proximity of one another.
“We have built two houses, created two outdoor facilities, and made two baths,” Happ tells Atlas Obscura.
Zookeepers even installed a window between their houses so they can see each other from afar, but there still has been no reconciliation. “She hisses like a snake,” Happ says. “She does not want to live with him.”
But the zoo still hasn’t given up. “We hope that they might find their harmony again.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in June 2012.
Turtle ‘marriage’ ends after 115 years
Zookeepers have tried therapy to help them reconcile.