Tu'i Malila

Tu'i Malila (1777 – 19 May 1965) was a tortoise that Captain James Cook was traditionally said to have given to the royal family of Tonga.[1] She was a female radiated tortoise (Geochelone radiata) from Madagascar and is the longest-lived tortoise whose age has been verified.[1]

Tu'i Malila
A photo of the tortoise's preserved body, 2002.
SpeciesGeochelone radiata
Died (aged 188)
Resting placeRoyal Palace of Tonga
Known forLongest-lived tortoise whose age has been verified.

The name means king Malila in the Tongan language. Tu'i Malila was hatched around 1777[2] and then given by Captain Cook to the Tongan royal family upon his visit to Tonga in July 1777.[3] According to other sources, George Tupou I obtained her from a vessel which called in Haapai in the first half of the 19th century.[4]

Tu'i Malila remained in their care until death on 19 May 1965 due to natural causes. The tortoise was estimated to be 188 years old at this time.[5] During Queen Elizabeth II's Royal Tour of Tonga in 1953, Tu'i Malila was one of the first animals shown to the monarch on her official visit to the island nation.

The body of the tortoise is kept at the Royal Palace of Tonga.[1]

See also


  1. Robb, Joan (1971). "TU'I MALILA, "COOK'S TORTOISE"". Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum. 8: 229–233. JSTOR 42906170.
  2. http://www.captcook-ne.co.uk,
  3. "Captain Cook Timeline – Third Voyage 1776 – 1780". Captain Cook Birthplace Museum. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
  4. "Madison Zoological Museum Collection: Bulletin - New York Zoological Society: [An account of the reptiles inhabiting the Galápagos Islands]". Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  5. Tortoise Believed to Have Been Owned by Darwin Dies at 176 2nd to last paragraph mentions tu'i Malila's age
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