• Common name: Aldabra Tortoise, Giant Tortoise
• Kingdom: Animalia
• Phylum: Chordata
• Class: Reptilia
• Order: Testudines
• Family: Testudinidae
• Genus: Geochelone (land turtle) gigantea (giant)

History of the Aldabra tortoises in Changuu Island
Aldabra Giant Tortoises are endemic Aldabra Atoll, in the Seychelles, and they do not grow in the wild anywhere else in the world. This community of Aldabra Tortoises is found in Changuu Island because they were a gift of the Seychelles Government to the British Resident in Zanzibar, Major F. B. Pearce (1914-1922), in 1919; they reached Zanzibar on board of S.S. Taroba. Before this, there were no Aldabra Tortoises in Changuu Island and Zanzibar.

In the exchange for the tortoises a number of typical specimen of Zanzibar flowering plants were shipped to the Seychelles as a present to the Government there.

Initially, four tortoises came; two of them were kept in the British Residency garden, which is today the State House; and two in the garden near the Mathews’ Memorial, today Peace Memorial Museum. The first decades of this community in Zanzibar were not easy, and their numbers were growing very slowly at the beginning, not only owing to the needs of getting adapted to the new place, but because some tortoises were stolen every time to be illegally sold. Thus, British authorities decided to change their place, and they were moved to Changuu Island during the 1920s. But this measure didn’t mean the end of the robberies. So afterwards it was decided to move the young tortoises to Livingstone House, today the Tourist Corporation, whereas the adult ones were kept on Changuu. On the other hand, the tortoises at the Peace Memorial Museum were moved to the gardens of the Museum of Natural History. Recently, the three tortoises staying in the Museum were shifted to Changuu.

Nowadays, the Tortoise Foundation has developed the necessary safety conditions and the tortoises are not in danger of being stolen anymore; the community consists nowadays in over one hundred individuals, growing happily in The Tortoise House.

Biology of the Aldabra Giant Tortoises
This reptile’s scientific name is Geochelone Gigantea, which means land’ giant tortoise, and this species is second to the Galapagos as the biggest land tortoise in the world. Its home land is the Aldabra Atoll, in the Seychelles. These big tortoises are characterized by a high domed shield, dark brown or grey in colour. Their legs are stout, and the front ones are partly covered with big scales. Both front and back feet have powerful claws.

Males are larger than females, and they have a longer tail, because the copulatory organ is found there. Males can have a carapace length of 122 cm and can weigh 250 kg, while females have a carapace of around 91 cm and their weigh is of about 159 kg. Sexual maturity is determined by size rather than by age, most beginning to reproduce when they reach half of their size; in age terms, this means approximately that they reach sexual maturity between the ages of 16 and 30 years, normally males taking five years longer to mature than females.

The breeding season goes from February to May; females lay, usually at night, between 9 to 25 eggs, of which less than half are fertile. In a healthy, uncrowded population, a second clutch laid within the same breeding season is likely. Between 3 and 6 months after they are laid, the eggs hatch, being the young reptiles only about 3 inches long.

Their habitat is made of mixed scrub, woodland and coral rag, and they are mainly herbivorous, so their diet is made basically of fruits and vegetables, but they also eat land crabs and dead tortoises.

It is believed that tortoises are the longest lived of all animals; this species can live over one hundred years, but their average life-span is 65 to 95 years.

The Aldabra Tortoise: an endangered species.
Giant tortoises were common on all islands in the Western Indian Ocean until the 1600s when increasing numbers of explorers and settlers visited the Seychelles islands and removed or killed the tortoises in vast numbers. By 1840 the only surviving giant tortoises in the wild where those of the Aldabra atoll; but even on these islands extinction was only narrowly avoided, after the alarm and appeals of scientists of the time, like Charles Darwin.

Nowadays, the figures of the whole population of this species worldwide is so low that specialists consider them as an endangered animal: the Aldabra Giant Tortoise is classified as vulnerable and listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Tortoise Foundation, looking after the welfare and healthy reproduction of the Aldabra Giant Tortoises of Prison Island, is developed by Changuu Private Island Paradise to assist the efforts to protect these animals.

In Changuu Island, Please:

DO NOT FEED THE TORTOISES
FEEDING TIME IS 10:00 HRS. A.M.
DO NOT GO CLOSE TO THE TORTOISES
DO NOT SEAT ON THE TORTOISES
YOUR DONATIONS WILL HELP THE SAVE THE TORTOISE FOUNDATION TO WORK FOR THE WELFARE OF THE TORTOISES

 

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