A sad day for South Dakota: Methusaleh the tortoise is dead

A sad day for South Dakota: Methusaleh the tortoise is dead
Methusaleh, a 130-year-old tortoise, died recently at Reptile Gardens in South Dakota. (Photo courtesy of Reptile Gardens)

Methusaleh, a 130-year-old tortoise, died recently at Reptile Gardens in South Dakota. (Photo courtesy of Reptile Gardens)

All across America and beyond, scrapbooks and photo albums contain vacation pictures of children sitting atop a giant tortoise at Reptile Gardens, in South Dakota’s Black Hills.

The tortoise in those pictures is Methusaleh, who died Sunday night at 130 years of age. He was said to be South Dakota’s oldest “resident.”

Methusaleh was born in 1881 in the Galapagos Islands and made his home at Reptile Gardens for the past 56 years. He weighed 600 pounds. Each year, he celebrated his birthday by eating his favorite food, watermelon.

As the mainstay attraction at one of the Black Hills’ most popular sites, he was probably not only South Dakota’s oldest resident but also its most photographed. In some families, there are multiple photos of kids with Methusaleh spanning several generations.

According to a news story I read today, Reptile Gardens estimates that tens of thousands of people met and petted Methusaleh through the years. A permanent memorial for Methusaleh is planned.

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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