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Shell shock as tortoises split after 115 years

NOT even the strictest marriage counsellor could have accused them of lacking commitment: Bibi and Poldi had been living in harmony together under the same roof and in different cities for a staggering 115 years.

But crestfallen keepers at Klagenfurt Zoo in southern Austria were forced to admit that Bibi and Poldi -- the country's oldest captive giant tortoise pair -- were refusing to share a cage.

"They can't stand the sight of each other anymore," said zoo director Helga Happ. "For no reason that anyone can discover, they have fallen out."

Zoo staff realised the pair's relationship had gone sour last month when Bibi attacked Poldi and bit off a chunk of his shell. She carried out further attacks, obliging keepers to move Poldi to a separate cage.

The two giant tortoises were born in 1897. "They are both 115," Mrs Happ said. "They grew up together, eventually becoming a pair."

The two animals have been at Klagenfurt Zoo for 36 years. Before that they were kept at Basel Zoo in Switzerland.

Keepers are trying to bring them back together. "We have keepers talking to them and trying to engage them in interacting," Mrs Happ said. So far, nothing has worked.