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Meet Goliath, The Largest Tortoise Ever Recorded in Florida

An Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) from the bottom, in a forest in Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

Meet Goliath, a Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) whose ridiculously large size earned him the title of the largest tortoise ever recorded.

Residing at the Life Fellowship Bird Sanctuary in Seffner, Florida, USA, from 1960–2002, Goliath has become famous due to his incredible proportions. Let’s explore some fascinating facts about Goliath and other Galapagos tortoises.

Goliath the Tortoise

galapagos giant tortoise
Mfield, Matthew Field, via Wikimedia Commons

Goliath was aptly named, being a giant among tortoises. Goliath reached an astonishing 135.8 cm (4 ft 5 in) in length, 102 cm (3 ft 4 in) in width, 68.5 cm (2 ft 3 in) in height, and weighed a staggering 417 kg (920 lb). Unfortunately, Goliath passed away in 2002 in Florida at a relatively young age, at least for tortoises, at 42 years old. It seems his death was due to natural causes.

Galapagos Tortoises

galapagos tortoises, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Galapagos tortoises, unsurprisingly native to the Galapagos Islands, are known for their exceptional size and longevity. The Galapagos islands’ unique ecosystem has allowed these reptiles to grow to very large sizes, particularly because they don’t have natural predators there. Goliath, although a Galapagos tortoise, resided in Florida at a sanctuary.

Physical Characteristics

giant tortoise
Image by Joshua J Cotten via Unsplash

Galapagos tortoises are characterized by their large saddle-shaped shells, which is shaped to allow them to reach high vegetation. The shell’s design also serves to regulate their body temperature and protect their soft skin.

Behavior & Diet

Image by Dušan veverkolog via Unsplash

Galapagos tortoises are slow, calm, and placid gentle giants who spend much of their days resting and relaxing. They are herbivores who eat leaves, grasses, and fruits, of which prickly pears seem to be their favorite snack. Interestingly, they can store food and water inside their body for long periods, allowing them to go without eating or drinking for up to a year.


Image by Magdalena Kula Manchee via Unsplash

One of the most remarkable things about Galapagos tortoises is their extraordinary lifespan. Some individuals can live upwards of 100 years, with those living in captivity usually able to live longer. This is one of the reasons that it’s confusing as to why Goliath passed away so “young.”

Wrapping Up

Image by Antoine H.C. via Unsplash

Goliath’s story is a fascinating one – especially considering that his life was cut seemingly so short. Perhaps size isn’t everything?

Thank you for following along with this article – 

Next up in the animal kingdom:

Chris Chittum

Saturday 10th of February 2024

I love God's Gp got me a tortoise when I was a kid thanks for all that he made

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