Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minnesota

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Animals - Griggs Learning Center

Desert Tortoise - Ozzie
Scientific Name: Gopherus agassizii
Range: Northwestern Mexico through the southwestern tip of Utah.
Habitat: Mohave desertscrub down to deciduous forests.
Diet: Plants, including cactus and flowers. At the zoo they eat vegetables, fruits and hay.
Fun Facts:
  • The tortoise does not have teeth. Instead they have a hard, sharp beak and their jaws are covered with flat, hard ridges for grinding food.
  • The adult tortoise shell is so strong only a mountain lion can break them open.
  • Tortoises are ectothermic, or cold-blooded, which means their body temperature is the same as the environment around them. To stay warm at night and stay cool in the day, they dig burrows.
  • Water conservation is a necessity in the desert. In the bright sun, a tortoise will move very slowly to conserve as much as possible. They will find water from the food they eat and by digging depressions in the ground to catch rainwater. Water is stored in the bladder, but it has to be refreshed once in awhile.
  • Reproduction age is reached at 12-20 years old and there is no defined mating period. A male will breed whenever the opportunity arises. Up to 14 eggs are laid in a nest. Only two to three out of 100 hatchlings will survive to be adults. Longevity is between 60 and 100 years!
  • The tortoise is considered vulnerable and the Federal Bureau of Land Management has designated a 98-square km park in California for the tortoise's protection.

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