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Two-headed tortoise celebrates 25th birthday

September 3, 2022

Every need of the unique tortoise, who lives in Geneva's Natural History Museum, is catered for. The reptile has two hearts, two pairs of lungs and even two distinct personalities.

Janus, a two-headed Greek tortoise, lives in the Natural History Museum in Geneva
Janus, a two-headed Greek tortoise, is being washed with a toothbrush during his 25th birthdayImage: Salvatore Di Nolfi/dpa/picture alliance

A two-headed tortoise in Switzerland reached the age of 25 on Saturday, due to the dedication of his human handlers.

The reptile named Janus, who resides in Geneva's Natural History Museum and has become one of its main attractions, was washed with a toothbrush on his special day.

The animal's every need is catered for by the museum.

The Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca) is bathed daily in green tea and chamomile, massaged regularly, given a special diet and monitored for his health status. Janus is fed cut up organic fruits and vegetables. 

Other events commemorating his birthday included taking a "selfie with Janus," meet-and-greets with his caregivers, and a scientific lecture detailing the peculiarity of Janus' two heads.

Janus, a two-headed Greek tortoise, lives in the Natural History Museum in Geneva
Janus is fed only organic fruit and vegetables every dayImage: Salvatore Di Nolfi/dpa/picture alliance

Double celebration

Janus also has two hearts, two pairs of lungs, and two distinct personalities.

Sometimes the heads wish to go in different directions. 

"The right head is more curious, more awake, it has a much stronger personality," Angelica Bourgoin, who leads the turtle's care team, said. "The left head is more passive and loves to eat." 

The care team constantly monitors Janus and is always on alert in case he flips over, as that position makes getting back on his feet impossible and could be fatal.

The tortoise was born in captivity of the museum in 1997 and received the name Janus, referring to the two-faced Roman god.

The creature would have likely not have survived predators in the wild, according to experts, as his heads cannot retract into his shell for self-protection.

dh/wd (dpa, Reuters)