Binder Park Zoo’s Al the Tortoise in good spirits recovering from foot infection

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Old Al the Tortoise is on the mend.

Dr. Kim Thompson said the staff at Binder Park Zoo knew something was wrong with Al the Tortoise a few months ago when he became increasingly lethargic. On his good days, the 600-pound tortoise ate and followed his trainer around outside. But he stopped doing that.

“He was less interested in eating and was a little more grumpy, moving around a little less,” Dr. Thompson said. “So we did an examination on him and noticed that his front left foot was swollen and seemed painful.”

She and a few others immediately took him to Brookfield Zoo in the Chicago suburbs for scans and tests in July. The results showed that that the 80-year-old tortoise had a bone infection in his front left foot. He was then put on a variety of medication from antibiotics, anti-fungals and fluids.

Giving medicine to a tortoise is not simple. "He got real smart with the medications and stopped taking them," she said. "We’ve tried hiding them in different variety of food. But he outsmarted us there. So we actually put a feeding tube into his esophagus.”

He’s been wearing it ever since. And, she changes his bandages twice a week.

“Unfortunately, some of the tissue on that left foot was unhealthy and had an infection in it,” Dr. Thompson said. “So we did have to remove some of the skin on that foot to help it to heal.”

So far, Al has been progressing well she said. The latest test revealed that the infection has not spread anywhere else in his body. But staff will keep him indoors to continue to monitor his health. He will return outside next season.

“Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know the cause of why this infection happened,” Dr. Thompson said. “We’ll just treat it and hope for the best.”

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