Schurli, zoo’s beloved giant tortoise, dies at 130 — rest in peace

It’s always sad when a zoo animal dies, especially one who has been around for a very long time. Some animals last for decades, becoming a familiar favorite for generations of visitors.

That was the case for one Aldabra giant tortoise named Schurli, who was the oldest and most beloved resident at the Tiergarten Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria — and incredibly lived to be 130 years old.

Sadly, after a long and happy life, Schurli passed away this week. He is being mourned by the many zookeepers and fans who loved him.


Schurli was born in the Seychelles islands, and arrived at the Vienna zoo in 1953. For nearly seven decades, he was a beloved fixture of the zoo. He was their oldest resident and was known as the “old man,” a favorite of generations of visitors.

“Many zoo visitors knew him almost forever,” the Schönbrunn Zoo wrote.

His fans and the zookeepers who looked after him fell in love with his distinct personality.  “Schurli had a strong character and was adorable and stubborn,” said zoo keeper Maximilian Schön. “He enjoyed being petted on the neck.”


The zoo says he was quite a celebrity, modeling for advertising photos, meeting the Mayor of Vienna and predicting the European Football Championship in 2016.

But most of the time, Schurli liked to take it easy. His favorite hobbies included bathing under a lawn sprinkler and eating.

“When it came to food, he preferred juicy cucumbers and dry leaves. They were like chips for him – only healthier,” Schön recalled.


While he had a good life, Schurli’s health began to deteriorate in recent days, the zoo says. He passed away on July 11.

His age was estimated to be 130. Giant tortoises are among the longest-living animals on earth — Jonathan, the oldest living giant tortoise, is believed to be 189 — so Schurli’s lifespan isn’t unheard of by species standards.

But it’s still remarkable to think that this creature was alive for well over a century. If Schurli was 130-years-old, he would’ve been born in all the way back in 1891 — for context he was born when Benjamin Harrison was president and 23 years before the start of World War I. He outlived the oldest-ever human, 122-year-old Jeanne Calment, by eight years.

Schurli is survived by two conspecifics that he lived with, a male named Menschik and a female named Mädi. Menschik is now the oldest resident at the zoo following his passing.

While he may be gone, it’s clear that Schurli left a big impact in his many decades on earth and will be remembered by people for a long time.

Rest in peace to this beautiful tortoise. Share this story to pay your respects to this remarkable animal.