Kiki's long lust for life lasted 146 years. [Photo by F-G Grandin/AFP/guardian.com]
France was in mourning today for one of its oldest and best-loved lotharios, a giant tortoise named Kiki, who died at the age of 146.
Staff at the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris announced that its veteran resident had succumbed last week to an infection.
They paid tribute to the zoo’s “doyen”, whose distinctive personality and “demonstrative lovemaking” had made him a favourite with the French public.
“We are rather upset to have lost Kiki. He had been here for such a long time …that we had kind of thought of him as eternal,” said Michel Saint Jalme, the deputy director of the Ménagerie. “He had a kind of charisma … a certain personality.”
Kiki, who arrived in the French capital as an exotic newcomer from the Seychelles in 1923, when his species was on the brink of extinction, was never slow to use that charisma to full effect.
According to Marie-Claude Bomsel, a vet at the zoo, he was so vigorous in his pursuit of female tortoises that his grunts could be heard from the other end of the zoo and the Jardin des Plantes.
“To be honest, from time to time I even saw him go after a wheelbarrow. You see what we were dealing with,” Bomsel told French radio. “That was one of his characteristics. We all loved him.”
Hmm… I had nights like that in my misspent youth. Kiki gives me courage for the golden years.
Frédéric Lewino, a science writer at Le Point magazine, wrote that, though advanced in age, Kiki remained “fresh” to the end.
Kiki weighed 250kg and had to be moved about using a forklift.
“However crushed they were by his 250kg, the females suffered his assaults without any complaint,” he remarked.
The oldest and largest of five giant tortoises at the Ménagerie, Kiki’s remains are to be preserved and exhibited at France’s Natural History Museum.
His fellow creatures are among the world’s longest living.
Harriet the Galápagos tortoise was reported to be 175 years old when she died in 2006 in Australia, while Tu’i Malila, a tortoise who died in 1965 in Tonga, lived to 188.