Harriet the Tortoise has died at the age of 175.
During the recent celebrations for her 175th birthday, her keepers at the Australian zoo put her longevity down to a “stress free life.” However, existence was not always easy. After being brought over from the Galapagos (perhaps by Darwin?) she was unfortunately designated male, and had to spend a hundred and twenty five years being treated as such.
The ignominy of this administrative error must have been especially acute for Harriet, because Tortoises are a sign of the feminine in some cultures. A colleague of mine has an ambition to visit the Yunnan province in China, to search for the feminine symbols carved onto tortoise shells (with, she writes, “the express blessing of the tortoise, of course”).