Geochelone gigantea

  • Second only to the Galapagos tortoise in the world.
  • Native to Aldabra Island, one of the Seychelles northeast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
  •  Aldabra tortoise is the only remaining species out of 18 former species of tortoise that once flourished on the islands of the Indian Ocean.
  • The others went extinct because of hunting by sailors and the predation of eggs and hatchlings by introduced species such as rats, cats, and pigs.
  • Carapace has a small neck plate that is usually visible, a feature absent in other species of giant tortoises.
  • Male’s carapace length – can measure 4 feet
    Weigh up to 250 kilograms
    > Female’s carapace length – can measure 3 feet
    Weigh up to 159 kilograms.
    > Males are considerably larger than females and have longer thicker tails.
    > Males have a concave plastron (belly shell)
  • Are one of the more social tortoise species.
  • Males will fight with one another for breeding rights.
  • Can reach ages of over 150 years

Ecological Roles – Similar to elephants in Asia and Africa

Habitats – scrub, mangrove swamp, coastal dunes and the largest concentration is found in the grasslands called platins.

  • Elephants are the main consumers of vegetation and will noticeably alter the habitat during their search for food.
  • Tortoises have been known to knock over small trees and shrubs to obtain nutritious leaves. Seeds pass through the tortoise’s digestive tract and eventually become food for many other species.
  • This species is protected in order to ensure its survival for the future. Charles Darwin and other notable conservationists of the day along with the governor of Mauritius set aside a captive breeding population on Mauritius as well as protecting the Aldabra Atoll.