Toledo Zoo Executive Director Jeff Sailer says he would “love to have” a giant tortoise join the zoo’s family. But wishing won’t make it so; zoo officials should start working assertively now to ensure such an addition occurs.
Toledoans of a certain age fondly remember Galopy, a Galapagos tortoise who resided at the zoo from the early 1950s until 1983. Instead of having to stare at the tortoise from behind a barrier, children who visited the zoo got to touch it and even sit astride it, to their joy and with no harm to the gentle Galopy, the most beloved animal in the zoo‘s history.
Former Toledo Zoo director William Dennler shipped Galopy to the San Diego Zoo in an act of contempt and arrogance, although the latter zoo had plenty of tortoises already and Galopy was relatively young. Toledo Zoo officials claimed that Galopy died just a few years later, although they did not substantiate that assertion.
In any event, it’s time for Toledo again to acquire a Galapogos or other giant tortoise — or two, because modern practice is to exhibit the animals in pairs. Because the Galapogos tortoise is an endangered species, its presence would enhance the zoo’s vital emphasis on conservation.
It also would give zoo-goers of all ages the opportunity to interact directly with a rare and appealing animal — another important value. Given the life-span of the Galapagos tortoise, typically more than a century, the permanent addition of one (or two) here from another zoo could create a tradition that would endure for generations.
Mr. Sailer says the Toledo Zoo now lacks the money and facilities to house a giant tortoise, although he is not averse to adding one. The zoo has shown the ability to mobilize its resources for other recent exhibits.
An avian exhibit that opened last week includes a new $3.5 million home for the zoo’s penguins. Other new exhibits feature flamingos, parakeets, scarlet ibises, and Watusi cattle. A tortoise could prove just as appealing to patrons‘ imagination, if not more so.
Toledoans have shown their love for the zoo in symbolic ways, such as casting their votes in a new USA Today poll that declared it the best zoo in the United States. A separate recent survey called the Toledo Zoo one of the nation’s top 10 family-friendly attractions.
More tangibly, Lucas County residents have taxed themselves to sustain a zoo of a quality that many larger communities can only envy. Now the zoo can repay that affection. Galopy II would be a fine way to do it.