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June 24, 1964: A sloooow ride at Como Zoo

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Minnesota Parks Updated: October 24, 2010 - 11:46 AM
If you were one of the countless kids who visited Como Zoo in the 1960s, you're sure to recognize the lumbering lugs in the photos below. Two Galapagos tortoises -- Toby and Lady Godiva -- roamed the concrete in and around the Zoological Building for more than 15 years. Any youngster brave enough to handle a top speed of 0.2 mile per hour could climb aboard. Alas, Godiva died of a bacterial infection in November 1974. Toby moved to the Honolulu Zoo a month later. Now an estimated 78 years old, he still gets around — but without any help from little visitors.

 

Yee-haw! Six-year-old Jill Hamblin of Richfield took her turn aboard one of the tortoises outside the main zoo building in June 1964. The original caption doesn't identify the tortoise, so I checked with the experts at Como. Zookeeper Joanne Kelly was fairly certain it was the female, Lady Godiva, judging by the shape of the shell. Zookeepers confirmed the identity by comparing the photo to Godiva's shell, which apparently has been in storage at the zoo for 36 years. (Minneapolis Star photo by Roy Swann)

 

When the tortoises were still relatively portable, they delighted classrooms around the metro. Here Mrs. Winnifred Haessler's first-graders (the original caption doesn't say where) scramble for a closer look. (Minneapolis Tribune photo)

 

January 1967: The annual weigh-in at Como Zoo turned the tortoises' world upside-down, apparently to keep them from wandering off. This tortoise tipped the scales at 216 pounds, with zookeeper Carlo Pyhaluoto at the controls. (Associated Press)

 

May 1968: It's unclear how this Kodak moment turned out. The tortoise's backside looks a bit slippery. (Minneapolis Star photo by Larry Schreiber)

 

December 1974: Toby got a hokey sendoff before being flown to the Honolulu Zoo, where his reproductive skills were put to the test. Sandy Blomquist, a member of the Como Zoological Society, and Zoo Director John Fletcher got into the spirit of the Hawaiian-themed party. Toby weighed 285 pounds when he left Como on "permanent loan"; he now weighs well over 500 pounds. (Minneapolis Tribune photo by Donald Black)

 

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