Methuselah, the 600-pound giant Galapagos tortoise, and Reptile Gardens long-time mascot, died in July of 2011. One year later, on July 10 2012, we unveiled a life-sized bronze of Methuselah in a new fun kid's playground dedicated to Methuselah and all the kids who knew and loved him.
"Methuselah was here since 1954," said Johnny Brockelsby, public relations director of Reptile Gardens. "He will be deeply missed by everyone here at Reptile Gardens and visitors from around the world."
Public Relations Director John Brockelsby and CEO Joe Maierhauser had known Methuselah since they were young children when John's father and Joe's uncle, Earl Brockelsby, introduced the giant tortoise into his new home in South Dakota in 1954.
Methuselah Fun Facts
- Methuselah arrived at Reptile Gardens in December of 1954 directly from the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, South America.
- He was flown to Peru then to Miami and ultimately transported by train to Rapid City.
- 1954 was long before Galapagos tortoises were declared an endangered species. Now, all animals on the Galapagos Islands are heavily protected and not allowed off the islands.
- Methuselah was from the island of Santa Cruz, one of the larger islands in the Galapagos archipelago. There were originally 14 subspecies of Galapagos tortoises, one for each island they inhabited. Some of the subspecies are now extinct.
- Methuselah arrived here as a full-grown adult. Tortoises, as all reptiles do, continue to grow throughout their lives but growth slows down as they age.
- For a while, in the 1970's, he was nicknamed "Earl" by some of our staff members, after our founder Earl Brockelsby.
- We estimate that Methuselah contacted well over 12 million visitors in his 56 years here at Reptile Gardens.
- There were tens of thousands of photos of Methuselah and visitors taken during his years at Reptile Gardens. He may very well be one of the most photographed animals in the US.
- Methuselah's favorite food was watermelon. He got to eat all the watermelon he wanted on his birthday in June each year while the rest of us enjoyed birthday cake.
A new playground was constructed at Reptile Gardens which houses the bronze cast of Methuselah in dedication to his memory. July 10th, 2012, the day of the unveiling was declared "Go Slow For A Day" by the Mayor of Rapid City in honor of the beloved mascot.
"This remarkably accurate bronze cast of Methuselah almost makes it as though he is still with us", said Reptile Gardens CEO Joe Maierhauser. "Our staff was amazed at how every detail, every flaw and dent in his shell and on his skin was perfectly reproduced."
Fun Facts About the Bronze Statue of Methuselah
- The bronze statue is an exact casting of the real Methuselah.
- Methuselah was posed and detailed molds made of every part of his body by former Reptile Gardens staff member, Matt Seney and Chris Cammack of Prairie Mountain Wildlife Studio.
- It took Matt and Chris over 300 hours, over the course of several months, to complete the mold-making process. Due to the complexity of the process and their desire to make a perfect impression, they worked in subzero temperatures, and at one point, had to use a forklift, a concrete culvert, and numerous inner tubes to complete the molds.
- Once the superbly detailed molds were completed they were delivered to Grant Standard and his crew at Black Hills Bronze foundry in Hill City, SD. They put their top people on making the finely detailed wax impressions of the original cast to then be cast in bronze using the lost wax technique.
- There were about 25 separate molds that were cast in bronze and then carefully welded together.
- The finished bronze weighs 360 pounds.
- Our friends at SECO Construction spent the winter of 2011/1012 creating the fun new Methuselah's Playground, home to the completed bronze. In the final weeks before the unveiling, SECO foreman James Graff worked closely with Black Hills Bronze to prepare the base on which the bronze would sit. He then moved the statue into place on the night of July 9.