Harriet : Second oldest animal of the world : 177 Years

Harriet (1830 - June 23, 2006) was a tortoise who had an estimated age of 175 years at the time of her death in Australia. Harriet is the second oldest tortoise ever authenticated, the oldest being Tu'i Malila, who died in 1965 at the age of 188.

She was reportedly collected by Charles Darwin during his 1835 visit to the Galápagos Islands as part of his round-the-world survey expedition, transported to England, and then brought to her final home, Australia, by a retiring captain of the Beagle. However, some doubt was cast on this story by the fact that Darwin had never visited the island that Harriet originally came from.

Harriet was said to be very good-natured. She loved the attention of humans and enjoyed it when people patted her on the scute. Harriet spent a majority of her day napping at her home pond. Her favourite food was hibiscus flowers.

Timeline for Harriet

  • ca. 1828 – 1832: Harriet hatches, probably on Santa Cruz.
  • 1835: Harriet is probably collected by Charles Darwin and taken to England.
  • 1841: Wickham retires from the Royal Navy, moves to Australia and brings three tortoises with him. Lives at Newstead House.
  • 1859: First publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species.
  • ca. 1860: Probable time when the three tortoises are placed in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens as Wickham soon left Australia for France.
  • ca. 1870: The earliest first-hand account of Harriet.
  • 1882: Charles Darwin dies.
  • 1942: Tom – one of the original three tortoises – dies, and is placed in the Queensland Museum.
  • 1952: Harriet moves to Fleay’s Fauna Sanctuary.
  • 1987: Harriet moves to the Queensland Reptile Park (Australia Zoo).
  • 1995: Harriet's remarkable history and the results of the research are presented.
  • 2005: Harriet's 175th birthday is attended by many people who had a long association with her.
  • 2006: On June 23, Harriet dies of heart failure at Australia Zoo.


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