The Australian Reptile Park’s giant Galapagos tortoise and resident heartthrob, Hugo, went on a very exciting trip today as he happily participated in his annual health check-up at Somersby Animal Hospital.

Hugo plodded his way into the van and went with keepers to get weighed, measured, and assessed in preparation for a massive 12-months where it is planned for mating to commence with his girlfriend Estrella.

Staff at the Vets eagerly rushed out to greet Hugo, and he was adorned with plenty of pats and scratches as their special guest arrived – it’s not often a Galapagos Tortoise walks through the door! Hugo (eventually) made his way to the large scales and came in at a whooping 183.4kg! This is a 2kg gain from his last visit in July 2020 where he weighed 181.6kg. As Hugo has reached full size, the increases will be smaller year on year and keepers will be looking for maintenance of his weight as opposed to massive growth spurts.

The vet, Dr Robin Crisman, alongside Head of Reptiles Jake Meney, assessed Hugo and ensure he was given a full bill of health in the lead up to the momentous year. Anticipation has been building since the tortoises first matched on Tinder in January 2019. Estrella was due to arrive in early 2020, but due to complications in travel and COVID-19, it was put off until she could safely reach Australian shores in June 2021. Since then, Keepers have been working hard on a breeding plan to ensure the best success for the pair of endangered reptiles.

Jake Meney, Head of Reptiles at the Australian Reptile Park said, “Today’s progress is an incredibly good sign for our heartthrob Hugo! Hugo is a lot easier to take to the vet than you would think! He will do absolutely anything for sweet potato and carrot, so all we had to do was keep giving snacks along the way and he went wherever we needed him to go. Hugo laps up any attention and neck scratches he can get!“

It is important that Hugo’s growth and health is monitored and recorded as reptiles rarely show signs of deteriorating health unless they are monitored very closely, but the Australian Reptile Park is happy to report that he is in the prime of his life and one happy tortoise!

The Galapagos tortoise’s diet consists of any green vegetation they can find, along with fibrous vegetation such as grass, tree bark and cacti. At the Australian Reptile Park, Hugo and Estrella eat carrots, bamboo stalks, hibiscus leaves and flowers, lucerne hay and other foods that are high in fibre with the odd piece of watermelon as a treat. The life span of the Galapagos tortoise is exceptionally long compared to other animals. Australia’s oldest Galapagos tortoise on record, Harriet, passed away at in 2006 at 175 years of age.

Visitors can see Hugo at the Australian Reptile Park every single day and even accompany him on his daily walks of the main park area. Guests looking for a more personal experience can book a Behind the Scenes tour where they get to meet Hugo in his enclosure, feed him and give him lots of neck scratches.

Hugo has called the Australian Reptile Park near Gosford, just north of Sydney, home since 1963 after arriving at the Central Coast wildlife sanctuary as an infant. He has now reached middle age (at the age of 70) and is ready to settle down. At 183.4kg he is fully grown and one of The Australian Reptile Park’s most popular animals. Coming all the way from Zoo Rostock Germany, Estrella the Galapagos tortoise is a stunning 22-year-old Galapagos tortoise. Keepers are hoping for successful breeding between the two in coming years to help bolster numbers for the endangered species.