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After a day of traveling, Emerson the tortoise today emerged from his shed and into the public eye, and seems to be enjoying his new digs at the Toledo Zoo.
Emerson, a dome-shelled Galápagos tortoise estimated to be about 100 years old, arrived at the zoo Wednesday evening from the San Diego Zoo. He was escorted by Toledo Zoo personnel on his FedEx flight to Detroit before being driven to Toledo and uncrated inside a heated shed for the night.
PHOTO GALLERY: Emerson takes first steps into new exhibit
This morning, it took a little coaxing from zoo officials to get Emerson to come out of the shed because he had turned himself around.
But after a few minutes, he came out and quickly, for a tortoise, went over to a crowd gathered on the pedestrian bridge to give silent greetings.
The keepers and R. Andrew Odum, the Toledo Zoo’s curator of herpetology, rubbed his neck - a tortoise favorite - and Emerson stretched his neck and himself up almost on tiptoe, allowing a vet a chance to check him out and make sure he made the trip without any bumps or bruises.
He got a thumbs up from the vet, and celebrated with a slow trip around his new pen, which was the former dingo yard. The dingoes are off exhibit until Emerson is moved into a winter holding space and a permanent space can be built for him.
Emerson is the zoo’s first Galápagos tortoise since 1983 when his predecessor, Galopy, was sent to San Diego by former Toledo Zoo director William Dennler at the recommendation of the Galápagos Tortoise Species Survival Plan. Galopy was also a wild-born tortoise and was the much-beloved face of the Toledo Zoo for 32 years.
Later this year, the zoo also will receive three 2-year-old Galápagos tortoises from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. The trio, who do not yet have names, will be kept in the zoo’s hospital for their 60-day quarantine period before going on display in the Reptile House.
Because of their much smaller size, they will not be housed with Emerson until they grow up a bit.