Meet the oldest animals at South Florida parks
Posted January 7
MIAMI — South Florida sure has some wild seniors.
They hang off trees, scurry in yards, lounge in pools. And at least one makes a whale of a splash.
They are South Florida's other seniors — the animals, some well into their 70s and up, that live in the spotlight at the region's zoos and entertainment parks.
Like us humans, they also have their share of allergies and aches and pains that come with aging. So what's the key to their longevity? Diet? Social environment? The fabulous weather? Good health care?
Whatever it is that's helping them age well, perhaps we could learn a thing or two. Let's meet these active seniors.
Little Mama at Lion Country Safari
Maybe her name should be Old Mama. One of the more popular seniors at the Loxahatchee park is Little Mama, a chimpanzee estimated to be about 78 years old.
She's the oldest known chimpanzee in the world, according to the park's primate curator, Tina Cloutier Barbour, who said the average lifespan of a chimp in captivity is 60 years.
"She is very energetic, which is incredible given her age," said Cloutier Barbour, of the chimp that has been at the park since 1968. "She is very active. She can still climb. She is highly mobile. She is also incredibly sweet and gentle."
Little Mama's diet is a mix of fruits, leafy greens, vegetables and high-calorie biscuits. She takes iron supplements and omega 3 multivitamins.
She gets seasonal coughs but knows how to use a nebulizer for relief. "We offer her the nebulizer and she knows it will make her feel better," she said. "There is a little mouthpiece that she puts in her mouth and she sucks on it."
Lion Country Safari plans to celebrate Little Mama's birthday on Valentine's Day, complete with plush toys, which she loves, popcorn and some extra fruits and veggies. "We don't know if that's her birthday, but we feel that birthday fits her personality."
After all, Little Mama just LOVES the color red.
Lancelot at Lion Country Safari
Lion Country Safari also has Lancelot, a 93-year-old Aldabra Tortoise.
Weighing 776 pounds, the plucky tortoise with the romantic name eats fruits, vegetables and pellet grains made for his species. He has been at the park since the early 1970s. And apparently, he's quite the catch.
"He is quite healthy, he has five girlfriends," said Brian Dowling, a curator. "He still pursues the ladies quite well."
These tortoises can live more than 100 years, Dowling said. Maybe Lancelot will break a new record!
The park has another pair of elders: two Southern white rhinos named Buck, 49, and Alice, 50. (Rhinos live to be about 40 years old, Dowling said.)
Jane Doe at Flamingo Gardens
She doesn't have a name but the senior flamingo (let's call her Jane Doe) at Davie's Flamingo Gardens is 52!
These long-legged birds typically live to about 20 to 30 years in the wild and about 50 in captivity, according to wild life websites.
Along with the 14 other Caribbean flamingos on the property, Jane Doe eats dry food pellets as well as algae from a pond in the wildlife preserve.
Interesting fact: "The beta carotene in the algae makes them pink. If they didn't have that, they would be white," said Michael Ruggieri, director of wildlife at the park.
He said Jane Doe is doing great for her age.
"She looks just as young as the other flamingos. You would not be able to tell that she is that old by looking at her," he said. "She must feel very comfortable where she is. She has a mate."
Goliath at Zoo Miami
His name suits him. Weighing 500 pounds, Goliath is the largest Galapagos Tortoise at Zoo Miami.
His species represents the oldest of the animals at the southwest Miami-Dade County zoo. They range in age from about 70 and 80 years old, according to Ron Magill, communications director at Zoo Miami.
"Though we don't have exact ages on any of the specimens that we presently house here, there are some individuals that were part of a collecting expedition back in the 1950s and arrived as adults," he said. "These are the longest living land vertebrates and can reach an age of 150 years."
Their diet: a mix of fruits, flowers, leaves, grasses, prickly pear cactus and water ferns.
Sharon & Nabalam at Palm Beach Zoo
This West Palm Beach attraction has a couple of seniors.
Sharon the ocelot turns 23 in January. She's the oldest cat there. An ocelot can live about 10 years in the wild and up to about 20 in captivity, according to zoo officials.
Nabalam, the matriarch jaguar, is said to be the oldest female jaguar in captivity. She turns 22 in May. Jaguars typically live to be about 12 years old in the wild and 20 in captivity.
Both cats will have birthday celebrations at the zoo. And both are on supplements to keep them healthy.
"With a focus on preventative medication, some of our older animals are also on supplements to promote good health - this includes kidney supplements, joint supplements and nutritional supplements to promote overall health," said Naki Carter, media relations manager at the zoo, which has more than 550 animals.
"Good husbandry and diet are key. The good health and longevity of our animals are testaments to the high-quality care provided by our animal care staff."
Romeo and Juliet at Miami Seaquarium
The oldest manatees at Miami Seaquarium are Romeo and Juliet, both over 60 years old. Romeo has been at the marine park since 1957 and Juliet since 1958.
The pair were part of a breed-and-release program. In the early days, their vet called them Big Bull and Mabel until park officials noticed their relationship and renamed them.
Romeo and Juliet graze on lettuce, fruits and vegetables in their tanks. Manatees are said to live to 60 years old or more.
"Romeo and Juliet, through the years, have been an active part of our conservation program, ('Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release')," said Dr. Maya Rodriguez, a park veterinarian. "Juliet has adopted and has been a surrogate mother for many orphans in the past decades. Romeo has also been a surrogate father for juveniles."
Among its oldest residents, Miami Seaquarium also has Lolita the 50-something killer whale, and JJ, the Bottlenose dolphin and one of the descendants of the infamous Flipper. Born in 1976, JJ is the park's patriarch dolphin and a father of 12.