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Scales and Tales

Methuselah received 100 pounds of watermelon from The Perse Girls Junior School as a birthday gift.

RAPID CITY — Reptile Gardens' late giant tortoise Methuselah's last birthday gift was also his most special. The Galapagos tortoise generally received watermelon on his birthdays — but this year, the watermelon traveled all the way from the United Kingdom.

In honor of Methuselah's 130th birthday in June, Methuselah received 100 pounds of watermelon from The Perse Girls Junior School in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Little did anyone know that this would also be Methuselah's last birthday gift. The tortoise died of old age on July 10.

The school decided to send Methuselah the grand gift in celebration of its own 130th birthday. School librarian Niki Rogers was browsing the Internet for associations with 130 and landed on a search result mentioning Methuselah.

According to an interview with the Rapid City Journal, Rogers said she thought it would be "fun to do something different and raise some money for Methuselah."

John Brockelsby, public relations director for Reptile Gardens, said he was surprised to receive an email from the girls' school wanting to take part in Methuselah's birthday. He said he thought it was an excellent idea to tie in both birthdays.

According to Rogers, the girls were ecstatic to participate in Methuselah's birthday. To raise enough money for 100 pounds of watermelon — enough to feed Methuselah for a year — the girls held a raffle fundraiser.

In the interview with the Rapid City Journal, Rogers described the girls' enthusiastic reactions when she announced in an assembly that the school would work to raise money for Methuselah's big day. She said she showed the girls pictures of the Galapagos tortoise on an overhead projector. She even made Methuselah birthday bookmarks and raffled a stuffed Galapagos tortoise to generate excitement.

"Watermelon is Methuselah's favorite, and he enjoyed the gift immensely," said Brockelsby. "While we are all mourning his death, we are glad he was able to have such a special treat for his last birthday."

Methuselah was born in 1881 in the Galapagos Islands, and Earl Brockelsby — founder of Reptile Gardens — brought the giant tortoise to South Dakota's reptile conservatory in 1956. Six hundred pound Methuselah was one of Reptile Gardens' most popular family attractions.

To learn more about Reptile Gardens' hours, admission costs, and seasonal specials, call (605) 342-5873 or (800) 335-0275 or visit its website at www.reptilegardens.com.

About Reptile Gardens

Founded in 1937, Reptile Gardens is a reptile park located in Rapid City, S.D. Their mission is to educate the public on important environmental issues, while working closely with many major zoos worldwide to promote species survival. Housing a large variety of unique reptiles, and exotic plants, this reptile zoo is actively involved within the local community and provides wildlife education for people of all ages.


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