By Ruth Davenport - Metro Halifax
HALIFAX - The crowds were smaller at the celebration of Gus the Tortoise’s 91st birthday than they were at his 90th, but the fans were no less enthusiastic.
© Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper
Gus, the resident gopher tortoise of the Museum of Natural History, celebrates his 91st birthday at the Museum with well wishers on Sunday.
“Someone remind him he’s 91!” said Dave Duffy, watching the gopher tortoise lead an crowd of fascinated kids – and grownups – on a relatively high-speed tour of the lawn behind the Museum of Natural History Sunday.
Duffy’s grandkids, Matthew and Hannah, were among the onlookers patting the senior citizen’s shell as he munched on grass and then plunged into the burrow he started working on around his 90th birthday.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Matthew, watching with sister Hannah, as Gus shuffled busily around under the turf in what could be his retirement home.
Though the crowd oohed and aahed over Gus’ level of activity, his primary caretaker said a 91-year-old tortoise wouldn’t have the same age-related issues as a 91-year-old human.
“He doesn’t have arthritis, he’s pretty spry,” said Heather McKinnon-Ramshaw, assistant coordinator of interpretation – adding that Gus gets a glowing review at every annual checkup. “With reptiles, the longer they live, the more they grow…so the longer they live, they just keep on going.”
About 1,000 people came to Gus’ 90th birthday – or “hatchday” celebration last year, compared to only a few hundred on Sunday – but McKinnon-Ramshaw said every year that Gus – described as “pretty stubborn” – survives is a significant achievement.
“He’s the oldest known gopher tortoise in the world … and we actually don’t know exactly how old he is,” she said. “We know he’s around that age…but he could be older.”