Aquarium Says Goodbye to Thunder, Its Oldest Animal

Alligator Snapping Turtle was an Estimated 150 Years Old

Newport Aquarium’s oldest, and one of its most iconic animals, died Tuesday afternoon. Thunder, the aquarium’s 150 lb. alligator snapping turtle, and a mainstay in the Canyon Falls exhibit, was estimated to be 150 years old.  She was an original resident to the aquarium when it opened in 1999. A necropsy (animal autopsy) has been performed, but the cause of death will not be known for several weeks.

Thunder was discovered in a Louisiana seafood market in the late 1990’s when it was legal to take alligator snapping turtles from the wild for commerce.  She was rescued because of her size, and sent to a Missouri farm where Newport Aquarium found her.  At the aquarium, she spent most of her time in exhibits near Gator Alley and most recently in Canyon Falls.

In an e-mail to cast members, the aquarium’s Executive Director, Eric Rose said, “While Thunder was here, thousands of cast members and millions of guests have enjoyed and connected with her, including myself and I’m sure nearly all of you.”

Watch Thunder Swimming in Her Canyon Falls Exhibit

The Alligator Snapping Turtle is given its name because of its powerful jaws and long, spring-like neck. Its distinct ridges on the shell are similar to the rough, ridged skin of an alligator. It is found primarily in the southeastern United States.  They are opportunistic feeders, almost entirely carnivorous, relying on fish they catch by wiggling a piece of pink skin on their tongue that looks like a worm. They also feed on dead organisms they scavenge.

Here are photos of Thunder in her Canyon Falls exhibit

Please join us in remembering Thunder and the millions of smiles she’s brought to us over the last 17 years. Was your smile one of those?  Share your memory in the comments section below.


5 thoughts on “Aquarium Says Goodbye to Thunder, Its Oldest Animal

  1. For our honeymoon, we visited the aquarium. Going through Gator Alley, I was finally able to see Thunder and she was my best picture from the entire trip! She is actually framed on our wall in the hallway!

    She will be missed greatly!

  2. Sad news — I always enjoyed seeing her — such an impressive animal — when my family would visit. I did not know that Thunder was female until this press release. I trust that she will enjoy the great river beyond the stars.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear of Thunder’s passing. She would have been born just a year after the Civil War. I wish I could have seen her in person. A lovely creature. God bless Thunder.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s