At long last, love is in the air for two old tortoises from the Knoxville Zoo. Al and Tex, a pair of male Aldabra tortoises aged 130 and 90, respectively, have been living the bachelor lifestyle for the last few decades -- but thanks to a little matchmaking from the facility's reptile expert, the duo are getting another chance at romance. Recently, the two males were introduced to a couple of females tortoises on loan from a zoo in Atlanta, and it didn't take long for the sparks to fly.Al is the zoo's oldest and largest male tortoise; at 130-years-old, he weighs in at approximately 550 pounds -- but despite his well-fed appearance, Al's been starved of one thing in particular. The last encounter Al had with a lady tortoise was back in 1983, the year his female companion died. Since then, Al has been sharing his enclosure with another long-time bachelor, Tex, who at age 90, hasn't seen a female since the late 1980s. But despite the perks of singledom, the two tortoises were enlisted to help preserve their species -- by getting down to business and making babies.

For Michael Ogle, a herpetologist from the Knoxville Zoo, the aging males' genes were just too good to not be passed on to a new generation of tortoises. So, following a little matchmaking diplomacy, Ogle was able to track down three females tortoises from facility in Atlanta: Patches, Corky.

After letting the females grow accustomed to their new enclosure in Knoxville for a few months, last week Al and Tex had the chance to meet their new roommates. KnoxNews has the lowdown on what happened next:

For eager Al, it was lust at first sight. He moved much faster than stereotypical tortoise pace to mate with Patches. Tex, who crawls slowly because of an arthritic-like leg condition, later showed at least passing interest in Corky and Patches.

While the girl tortoises are smaller, each still weighs 200 to 250 pounds. Their ages - an estimated 60 to 70 years - don't hamper their reproductive chances. Female tortoises can lay more than one clutch of five to 15 eggs during the breeding season. Zookeepers would remove the baseball-size eggs from nests dug in the exhibit to incubate them.


Photo by Saul Young

Aldabra giant tortoises are classified as a threatened species, native to the Seychelles. The species is amongst the longest living on the planet, with at least one individual reputedly having reached the age of 255.

Video » Mating Aldabra Tortoises

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