Old-timers in Czech Zoos

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  09. 02. 2015

Recently I have written about a Caribbean Flamingo female called "FHF", who came to Prague almost 50 years ago on the 5th of August 1965. Regarding the fact that she was captured in Cuba as an adult bird, she might be well over 50. So she lived in the olden times, when Beatles started playing, and at least six presidents took turns in Prague Castle during her life.

Eberhard, photo: Tomáš Adamec, Prague Zoo Eberhard, photo: Tomáš Adamec, Prague Zoo

My article about "FHF" inspired an unnamed journal to search for other grandmas and grandpas in Czech zoos. This journal for instance found our orangutan Ferda, who was born 45 years ago and has been living in Ústí nad Labem since the floods in 2002, and the elephant cow Rání from Liberec, who is going to be 52. But neither Ferda nor Rání and maybe even not "FHF" are the very oldest inhabitants of Czech zoos.

The elephant cow Suseel from Ostrava is going to be 54 and our Gulab will celebrate her 56th birthday this year. But for the absolute record breaker we have to look somewhere else. Besides flamingos I would bet on parrots, condors and tortoises.

I have heard that the Prague Zoo director Professor Zdeněk Veselovský used to have a cockatoo who belonged to the Zoo´s founder Professor Jiří Janda. But when I was checking out this information, it turned out not to be true and Professor Janda´s parrot had died long time ago. Also the Turkey Vultures, who arrived to Prague Zoo from Cuba one year before the flamingos, one by one had died, the last one in Plzeň in 2011. And as I don´t have any information about any extremely old bird surviving in any Czech Zoo, we have to focus on tortoises. And it is our group of Giant and Elephant Tortoises, where the chance to find an age record holder, or at least a serious competitor to "FHF".

Until recently we underestimated the age of our tortoises. The age of the oldest one, the male of Elephant Tortoise Eberhard von Leipziger Hauptbanhof, was estimated to be some 55, or maybe 56 years. But when we checked the information on "FHF", we learned that in 1969, when Eberhard arrived to Leipzig, he was already fully adult. Therefore he had to be at least 30 years old, which means, that today he is minimally 75! Which means, that he lived when Bing Crosby basked in glory - but maybe he was munching grass even when the Cancan was all the rage. As for presidents, he experienced at least 10 of them. If he doesn´t also remember Masaryk and the Austrian-Hungarian Emperor.

Simply, today Eberhard probably has the biggest claim to be considered the oldest inhabitant of not only Prague, but of all Czech zoos. Unless somebody older appears.

Old-timers in Czech Zoos

Miroslav Bobek, Director, Prague Zoo