Lagos: A tortoise whose royal owners claimed was 344 years old years old has died in the palace of the traditional ruler of Ogbomosho, southwest Nigeria, a spokesman said Saturday.
Although animal experts doubt the tortoise could have attained such an advanced age, its royal owners say Alagba, meaning Elder, had lived in the palace for centuries.
Alagba died after "a brief illness" on Thursday, Toyin Ajamu, the personal aide of King Jimoh Oyewunmi, told AFP.
Describing the tortoise as the "oldest in Africa", Ajamu said: "Alagba lived in the palace for centuries. The tortoise played host to many monarchs in Ogbomoso in the past."
The tortoise was said to have been brought to the palace by the third traditional ruler of the town, Isan Okumoyede, hundreds of years ago.
"Often times, Kabiyesi (the king) shares great moments with Alagba. On a daily basis, Alagba, had tourists visiting her from different part of the world," he added.
The king had employed two palace workers to take care of the tortoise. Its remains would be preserved for posterity, Ajamu added.
But one expert expressed scepticism concerning the real age of the animal.
"I seriously doubt if Alagba was 344 years old before it died," Yomi Agbato, a Lagos-based veterinary doctor told AFP.
"Usually, the average age of tortoises is around 100 years."
According to Ajamu, the tortoise was said to have had "healing powers" as many people with spiritual problems who came in contact with the animal were cured.