City Guides » Pets

Gus by the numbers

A quick lesson on The Museum of Natural History’s resident tortoise and Halifax’s oldest pet.

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VICTORIA CASTLE
  • Victoria Castle

Gus is a true institution and a total legend. At 92 years young, he's the oldest known gopher tortoise in the world, and he's ours. What can we learn from this reptile who's spent most of his life at the Museum of Natural History? "Eating lots of vegetable and fruits, daily exercise and naps are the key to longevity. You are never too old to be curious about the world around you and you should take time to explore it," says Heather McKinnon Ramshaw, the museum's assistant coordinator of interpretation."Most importantly, slow down and enjoy each small moment of your life." Here's a look at some of Gus' small, but mighty, moments.

5 dollars is what one-time museum director Don Crowdis paid for Gus back in 1942. He also purchased a indigo snake and a baby alligator, who unfortunately didn't live to be 92.

4-8 hours a day is what Gus spends sleeping (longer in the winter months). "Gus can spend the majority of the day sitting with his eyes closed under the heat lamp or in his log, but he is not really sleeping," says Ramshaw. "He is just resting."

12 to 30 degrees celsius is the ideal body temperature for Gus, given that he's native to the southern States—hence the heat lamp. "We like to keep him around room temperature. So, he only goes outside on warm sunny days and stays inside from late October to late May."

30 blueberries and a head of romaine lettuce is the kind of meal Gus can put back in one sitting. But "some days he eats a lot, some days he eats a little, and some days he does not eat at all," says Ramshaw. Tortoises can go a month without food if they choose. Gus' "strict vegan" diet includes kale, broccoli and beans, foraged dandelions and his all-time favourite, bananas.

60 minutes is how long Gus' daily walk normally lasts, though Ramshaw says sometimes he'll only walk for a fraction of that time. Wild gopher tortoises can travel up to eight kilometres a day, foraging, digging burrows and looking for mates, but Gus normally sticks to the Museums yard, or the surrounding sidewalks.

70 years of service at the museum earned Gus an award from the Nova Scotia government for his decades as a educational piece, reptile ambassador and staff member at the museum.

150 years is how long Gus could live, according to some of the museum's recent research.

1922 The year Gus was hatched, somewhere in either Florida or Georgia.

5 million is the estimated number of people who've visited Gus over the years—including Gordie Howe, Ellen Page and Sidney Crosby.

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