A British zoologist and curator of reptiles at Bristol Zoo,Tim Skelton has faulted the age of Ogbomoso Tortoise ” Alagba” that died on Thursday at 344 years, saying it would be “impossible” for Alagba to have lived that long.
According to him, “A hundred years is a very good age. Giant tortoises can live up to 200, but that’s a very rare exception.”
”Alagba is not a giant tortoise, ” he said. But after looking at photos, Mr Skelton categorised Alagba as an African spur-thighed tortoise.
BBC reports that another professional herpetologist, an expert in reptiles, John Wilkinson also agreed with Mr. Skelton, adding that tortoises have short life-span.
“I would have thought that it would be unlikely in the extreme,” he said. “They just don’t live that long,” he said.
According to Wilkinson, the oldest tortoise – indeed animal – in the world is believed to be Jonathan, an 187-year-old giant tortoise who lives in St Helena.
“Any other tortoise lives between 70-80 years old, maximum 100,” Mr Skelton said.
The royal palace of the current Soun of Ogbomoso land, Oyo State, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, had announced that its resident tortoise has died on Thursday following a short illness, saying it lived a remarkable 344 years old.
A Private Secretary to Oba Oyewumi, Toyin Ajamu said the tortoise, which attracted tourists from different parts of the world would be missed not only by people in the palace but everyone who came in contact with it.
The palace secretary explained that plans are underway to preserve Alagba’s body for historical records.
The tortoise, named Alagba, meaning elderly one, lived in the palace of Ogbomoso in Oyo state which had at least two personal attendants to see to her needs and would eat only twice a month.
The tortoise was thought to have healing powers and attracted visitors from far and wide.
The revered reptile was apparently brought to the palace by the kingdom’s third leader, Isan Okumoyede, who reigned from 1770 to 1797.
However, Isan Okumoyede reigned just over 200 years ago. This means the tortoise would have already been 100 when she was found, for her to have reached the grand old age of 344.
It also means that the 344-year-old sacred tortoise said to be the oldest in Africa, will have lived through the reign of 18 Ogbomoso kings.