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Tortoise turns 175, but she’s not slowing down

Harriet the tortoise, quite possibly the oldest living animal on Earth, celebrated her 175th birthday on Tuesday -- with a pink hibiscus flower cake at her retirement home in northern Australia.
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

Harriet the tortoise, quite possibly the oldest living animal on Earth, celebrated her 175th birthday on Tuesday -- with a pink hibiscus flower cake at her retirement home in northern Australia.

Australia Zoo, where Harriet has spent the past 17 years, claims the Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise was collected by British scientist Charles Darwin in 1835.

But while DNA evidence shows Harriet hatched on one of the Galapagos islands, her DNA also shows she came from an island that Darwin never visited.

There is no doubt, however, over the age of Harriet -- who for more than a century was thought to be a male and named Harry -- and she is recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living chelonian, or reptile with a shell of bony plates.

“She would definitely be the oldest living animal on Earth ... I can’t see why she shouldn’t live till 200,” Australian conservationist and television celebrity Steve Irwin, who owns Australia Zoo, told Guinness World Records.

As for how Harriet is doing in her senior years, zookeeper Richard Jackson says she’s just fine, thank you.

“If you didn’t know her age, you wouldn’t know even know” she’s 175, Jackson said. “She gets out in the morning. She gets out in the sun. ... She’ll come over for her food every day. When she wants to, she’ll wallow in the mud. She gets around fine. She’s showing no real signs of slowing down.”