Of all the links in the animal world, this one I sure didn’t expect.
Charles Darwin is widely known as the man behind the theory of evolutionary biology, most notably for his work in the Galapagos Islands.
Steve Irwin is also widely known from his career as a wildlife conservationist, TV host, philanthropist, and being just an all around awesome dude.
Today, November 15th, is actually Steve Irwin Day, which reminded me of this incredible story that somehow involves both Charles Darwin and the Crocodile Hunter himself.
While both men directly worked with animals, it was in quite different capacities, so one would think whatever connection the two had would end at “studied animals”, especially given Darwin died 80 years before Irwin was born.
But it turns out these two will be forever linked by one long-living creature.
While Darwin was out on his adventures, he collected many species of animal to bring back to his labs for study. This collection included a number of reptiles, and some of those reptiles were western Santa Cruz tortoises, which are only found in a particular portion of the Galapagos Islands.
One of those tortoises was named Harriet and, according to some reports, she was cared for directly by Darwin, who brought her back to England in 1835 while she was the size of a dinner plate, before sending her to the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane, Australia in 1860.
Harriet lived at the Brisbane Botanical Gardens for over 100 years then was moved briefly to Fleay’s Fauna Sanctuary on the Gold Coast before going to her final home in 1987.
And where was that final home? The Australia Zoo, which was founded and managed by a Bob and Lyn Irwin until 1991, when their son took over management of the zoo. That son was, of course, Steve Irwin, who had worked at the zoo since he was a very young child.
The tortoise lived out the rest of its days in peaceful luxury in the care of the best hands on the planet. Harriet lived to be an estimated 175 years old, born around 1830 and passing away in 2006.
I would be remiss if I didn’t add that some researchers do not believe Darwin had a personal connection with the tortoise and it was just one of many collected by his expedition, but regardless, the fact that Charles Darwin and Steve Irwin laid eyes on – and owned – the very same turtle, well over a hundred years apart, is magical.
RIP to the great Steve Irwin. Have to find some Crocodile Hunter replays to binge-watch in his honor tonight.