250-odd year old tortoise dies.

'World's Oldest' Tortoise Dies

Old timer: The tortoise was thought to have been born more than quarter of a millennia ago

Zoo keepers in India are mourning the death of a giant tortoise thought to have been born a few years before Marie Antoinette.

The Aldabra tortoise is believed to have been more than 250 years old and was given to Robert Clive, the famous British military officer in colonial India, as a pet in the 1750s.

The reptile, which had been living in a zoo in Kolkata, West Bengal, succumbed to liver failure.

Local authorities say the tortoise, named Addwaitya meaning the "The One and Only" in Bengali, was the oldest tortoise in the world - but they have not presented scientific proof to back up their claim.

"Historical records show he was a pet of British general Robert Clive of the East India Company and had spent several years in his sprawling estate before he was brought to the zoo about 130 years ago," said West Bengal forest minister Jogesh Barman.

"We have documents to prove that he was more than 150 years old, but we have pieced together other evidence like statements from authentic sources and it seems that he is more than 250 years old."

The minister said details about the tortoise's early life showed that British sailors had brought him from the Seychelles islands and presented him to Clive, who was rising fast in the East India Company's military hierarchy.

Wild Aldabra tortoises are found on Aldabra island in the Indian Ocean. They average about 120kg.

It is believed that tortoises are the longest lived of all animals, with life spans often surpassing 100 years.

Inventions in Addwaitya's long and eventful lifetime

1783 Hot air balloon
1792 Guillotine (the Frog version, not the older British one)
1807 Steamboat
1818 Bicycle
1837 Photography
1846 Saxophone
1867 Dynamite
1876 Telephone
1889 Automobile
1899 Paper clip
1930 Jet engine
1937 Nylon
1974 Personal computer
1995 DVD
1997 Viagra

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According to some of the keepers of the tortoise, it was born in the year 1751 before it was given to "Clive of India" as a pet.

What was life like in Britain in 1751, the year the tortoise was born?

This is from The Daily Mail -

London life in the 18th Century - Hogarth's Gin Lane was painted in 1751, the year that Addwaitya was born. In the background, mobs of drunks fight each other and, in the foreground, a drunk woman drops her baby over a balcony.

If Addwaitya the tortoise really was born in 1751, it coincided with Clive of India's greatest victories against the French.

George II was on the throne. He was mortified by the death, in March that year of his eldest son Frederick, Prince of Wales. The 44 year old prince suffered from a burst abdominal ulcer after being hit in the stomach by a tennis ball.

Meanwhile, thousands of Londoners fled over the newly-opened Westminster Bridge as a series of earthquakes hit the city. The bridge had been opened the year before to link the fast-growing areas of Westminster and Waterloo.

At the same time, just down the road in Chiswick, Samuel Whitbread's new brewery was expanding rapidly. In 1751, the companmy moved to larger premises because demand was so great for its black porter beer.

London was still a lawless city. Writer Horace Walpole was robbed by highwaymen in Hyde Park and declared: "One is forced to travel, even at noon, as if one is going to battle."

In response, a new morality that was to become typical of the Victorian era 80 years later was just beginning.

In 1751, Benjamin Beale invented a bathing machine - like a hut on large wheels - to be pulled in and out of the sea at Margate, Kent, so that swimmers could enter the water in privacy.

Sea bathing was a popular and fashionable exercise, encouraged by a dissertation from one Dr Richard Russell on its benefits in preventing glandular diseases.

Meanwhile at Westminster, MPs were starting to struggle with ways to keep the rebels in the American colonies quiet. The Iron Act, passed the previous year, had been designed to allow duty-free imports from America.

In 1751, Parliament passed the Calendar Act, which brought British dates in line with those of Europe. Britain had stuck with the Julian Calendarm which was invented by Julius Caesar in 45BC. The new law brought protests on the streets when it was put into practice the following year because Britain suddenly skipped from September 2nd to September 13th.

Some peasants thought they had lost 11 days of their lives and marched demanding: "Give us back our 11 days."

This was also the year that Hogarth painted his infamous Gin Lane, showing booze-sodden drunks littering London's streets.

But despite the crime and drunkenness, London also had elegance and taste - 1751 was the year Italian master Canaletto painted his View of the Grand Walk, Vauxhall Gardens.


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