In a GIANT day for a special tortoise at the Australian Reptile Park, beloved resident Hugo the Galapagos tortoise has a lot of candles to blow out today as he hits the massive milestone and of turning 70 years old! The day was full of celebration, with keepers presenting him with a delicious cake featuring watermelon and hibiscus – decorated on a three-tier cake topped with miniature versions of Hugo and Estrella carved out of melons!

The cake was presented to Hugo by keepers on behalf of his girlfriend Estrella and they both excitedly (and… very… slowly) approached it before devouring it as quick as they could manage. The fruits are a special rare treat for the tortoises, something keepers know Hugo looks forward to every year! After the cake, Hugo went on his daily walk to receive more pats and love from visitors who came to the Australian Reptile Park to say happy birthday to one of its most famous residents.

Hugo is the oldest resident currently living at the Australian Reptile Park and has called the wildlife sanctuary near Gosford, just north of Sydney, home since 1963.  He has now reached middle age and is expected to live well over 150 years. At 185kgs, he is fully grown and one of the Australian Reptile Park’s most iconic animals.

Head of Reptiles, Daniel Rumsey explains “Anyone who meets Hugo knows he is not your regular tortoise. He is full of personality and will greet anyone with a big smile! I love working with him and watching everyone’s faces light up when they see him for the first time.”

Mr Rumsey continues, “I always say if you didn’t give Hugo’s shell a rub, you haven’t visited the Australian Reptile Park! It really does give you good luck!”

This birthday is an extra special occasion as it is the first Hugo has spent with his new girlfriend Estrella. He finally met her in October 2021 after years of waiting. 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. She arrived at the Australian Reptile Park in June and was held in mandatory quarantine for three months until their historic meeting this week.

The Galapagos tortoise’s diet consists of any green vegetation they can find, along with fibrous vegetation such as grass, tree bark and cacti. In captivity the tortoises will 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 and his girlfriend Estrella at the Australian Reptile Park every single day during the school holidays and even accompany Hugo on his daily walk at 11:00am. Guests looking for a more personal experience can book a Behind the Scenes tour where they can meet Hugo, enter his enclosure, feed him and give him lots of pats.