Any 25th birthday is a cause for celebration. But it was even more so for Janus, a two-headed Greek tortoise who marked the milestone year on September 3, 2022. The resident of the Natural History Museum in Geneva, Switzerland, is now believed to be the world's oldest two-headed tortoise. The museum celebrated the special occasion with a day-long party filled with fun events, which included taking photos with the birthday "boy."
In the wild, Greek tortoises (Testudo graeca) can live up to two hundred years in their natural habitat. However, two-headed tortoises, like Janus, usually do not survive for that long. Unlike normal tortoises, the reptiles are unable to retract their two heads into their shell, making them highly vulnerable to predators.
Janus, who has spent his entire life at the museum, faces no such danger. But life is not without challenges for the two-headed tortoise who also has two hearts and two pairs of lungs. Each head controls the front and back legs on its side of the body. This can lead to confusion when the two heads decide to go in different directions. Angelica Bourgoin, Janus's lead caregiver, says, "The right head is more curious, more awake, it has a much stronger personality. The left head is more passive and loves to eat."
To make matters worse, the two heads frequently rub against each other, resulting in skin sores. Janus also has a hard time rolling back onto his feet when he accidentally flips over. If left on their backs for too long, tortoises can get sunburned, dehydrated and even die.
Fortunately, Janus has a staff dedicated to ensuring he lives a long and healthy life. The pampered tortoise receives a daily massage and is bathed in a green tea and chamomile extract solution. He eats a special diet of organic fruits and vegetables, keeps active with walks, and rides on his custom skateboard. Bourgoin even talks to the turtle and plays soothing music to wake him from his slumber! With such loving care, the two-headed tortoise will surely continue to shatter many more records for longevity.
Happy Birthday, Janus!
Resources: Nerdist.com, Institutions.ville-geneve.ch, euronews.com