Happy Birthday to an extraordinary old man!

You are here


There's reason to shellebrate this weekend, as we'll be marking a centenary birthday for our oldest resident on Sunday 12th February as part of our year of celebrations!

Darwin the Aldabran tortoise was one of the first animals to arrive at Blackpool Zoo in 1972 and although there were no detailed records of his history keepers believe he is over 100 years old….and well overdue a party!  

The 35 stone Centenarian has lived through some incredible times. When he hatched there was no National Health Service, man had not been into space, the Humber Bridge hadn’t been built, the M6 didn’t exist and the Channel Tunnel wasn’t even a pipedream. In addition, Queen Elizabeth II, Sir David Attenborough and Nelson Mandela were all yet to be born.

There have been thousands of significant inventions in the past 100 years including antibiotics, the microchip, the Internet, Teflon, the heart pacemaker, the jet airliner, the helicopter, television and alkaline batteries.

Darwin was named after the famous Charles Darwin, who was best known for his contributions to the science of evolution.

So, we thought it would be fitting to mark his big day on the birthday of his namesake, who worked with Albert Gunther and the government of Mauritius to establish a preserve for the species at the end of the 19th Century.

Aldabran tortoises are one of the largest species of tortoise in the world and Darwin certainly doesn’t disappoint. Weighing in at just over 35 stone it would take at least six of our strongest keepers to lift him.

He lives with eight other tortoises in a specially designed home where he spends daylight hours either taking a dip in his pool or eating his favourite foods including watermelon, peppers, parsnips, clover and willow.

Sunday 12th February will be a special day at the zoo with bunting, fascinating facts and figures, celebrations and a watermelon treat for the big man! Join us at the tortoise enclosure at 10.45am on Sunday for a special tortoise talk, where Darwin will be given his birthday treats! 

Andy Bubbins, a keeper here at the zoo, has looked after Darwin since 1980.  He said:

“We are pretty confident that Darwin is over 100 years old so as part of our 45th anniversary celebrations we decided to throw him a 100th birthday party! He really is one of the most popular animals in the zoo, he lives just by the entrance and is the first resident that people meet.

“We contacted Buckingham Palace to see if he would qualify for receiving a letter from the Queen, but unfortunately they weren’t able to help.

“He is so calm and laid back and loves everyone, apart from the vet! One of the first things I remember about looking after him is when the vet came to see him for the second time to give him an injection, and although tortoises aren’t known for their speed he quickly got up and shuffled out of the door!

“I know I can speak on behalf of the keepers, staff and even visitors when I wish our special old man a very Happy Birthday!”

100 years of Darwin’s life!

1917                WW1 being fought, John F Kennedy was also born in that year.       

1918                Nelson Mandela was born and WW1 ended.

1926                Queen Elizabeth II and Sir David Attenborough were born and the General Strike took place.

1939                UK declared war on Germany in the year Tina Turner was born.

1945                Germany surrendered and Rod Stewart was born.

1948                The NHS was founded and Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne were born.

1953                Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.

1962                The Beatles had their first Top Ten hit with “Love Me Do”

1973                In this, the year of Peter Andre’s birth, the UK joined the European Economic Community.

1979                Margaret Thatcher became our first female Prime Minister.

1990                Mrs Thatcher resigned and actress, Emma Watson was born.

1997                Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris.  Actor James Steward also died in this year.

1999                Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were inaugurated.

2001                British farmers suffered the devastating consequences of Foot and Mouth disease.

2005                Tony Blair was voted in for a third term in office.  Pope John Paul II died.

2008                The Church of England allowed ordination of women bishops.

2011                Prince William married Kate Middleton.  Elizabeth Taylor died.

2012                London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic games.

2013                Prince George, 3rd in line to the throne, was born.  Mrs Thatcher died.

2016                Britain voted to leave the EU.  Queen Elizabeth II became the longest serving monarch.  Mohammed Ali died.