Aldabra giant tortoise: can it still be saved?



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Aldabra giant tortoise: can it still be saved?

The main population of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise resides in the Aldabra Atoll of the same name, in the Seychelles. The atoll is protected from human influence and is home to around 100,000 giant tortoises, the largest population of these animals in the world.

Smaller populations of A. gigantea, in the Seychelles, are also found in the Sainte Anne Marine National Park and La Digue, where they are a popular tourist attraction. Another isolated population of the species resides on Changuu Island, near Zanzibar, and other captive populations reside in protected parks in Mauritius and Rodrigues.

Aldabra giant tortoises live in many different habitats, including grasslands, scrubland, mangrove swamps, and coastal dunes. The presence of giant turtles on the islands has allowed the co-evolution of a new habitat, caused by the food pressures of the turtles: the tortoise turf, a set of over twenty species of herbs and plants.

Many of these plants are dwarf, and their seeds remain at ground level rather than on top of the stem, out of reach of the turtles. Being the largest animal in its habitat, the Aldabra giant tortoise plays a role similar to that of the elephant.

Their vigorous search for food cuts down trees and creates natural paths used by other animals. These large herbivores spend much of their time looking for food in their surroundings.

Can it still be preserved?

Large turtles are among the longest-lived animals.

Some specimens of Aldabra giant tortoises are believed to be over 200 years old, but this is difficult to tell as they tend to outperform their human observers with age. A specimen named Adwaita was presumably one of four specimens brought by British sailors from the Seychelles Islands as gifts to Robert Clive of the British East India Company in the 18th century and arrived at the Calcutta Zoo in 1875.

Upon his death in March 2006, At Kolkata Zoo, India, Adwaita is believed to have lived longer than any other known turtle, with an age of 255 (birth year 1750). At the moment it is believed that the oldest surviving specimen is Jonathan, a giant tortoise from the Seychelles, who celebrated his 190th birthday in 2022, with Esmeralda, an Aldabra giant tortoise, in second place with an age of 176.

years, from Harriet's death at 176, a Galapagos giant tortoise. The Aldabra giant tortoise has an unusually long history of organized conservation. Albert Günther of the British Museum, who later moved to the Natural History Museum in London, worked with the Mauritian government to establish a reserve in the late 19th century.

Related, but distinct, species of giant tortoise from the Seychelles Islands are the subject of a captive breeding and reintroduction program by the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles. IUCN has classified the species as vulnerable.