Length: 90cm, Weight: 150kg
Length: 122cm, Weight: 250kg
Up to 150 years!
HABITAT & DISTRIBUTION
Found in grassland, scrub areas, mangrove swamps and coastal dunes of the Aldabran Islands (the Seychelles) and Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean.
WHAT THEY EAT
Mainly vegetation and small invertebrates, will also eat carrion and occasionally the dead bodies of other tortoises! Captive individuals need a varied diet and individuals that are fed only on lettuce/tomato end up with bones that collapse and can no longer support their weight.
This species is found both individually and in herds. They are mostly active during the morning and spend the rest of the day either in burrows or swamps to keep cool.
- Some people suggest that these animals do not age. The oldest definite report is for an individual that died accidentally after 152 years in captivity. Because this animal was caught as an adult, it was possibly around 180 years old. One male specimen called “Adwaita” was reported to have been anywhere between 150 and 255 years of age when he died at Alipore Zoo in Calcutta, India. Allegedly, “Adwaita” was a pet of British General Robert Clive before arriving at the zoo in 1875, although this has never been confirmed.
- This is the second largest species of tortoise after the Galapagos Tortoise. A male at the Fort Worth Zoological Park weighed in at over 360 kg (793 pounds)!
- The neck of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise is extremely long to help it eat from tree branches that are up to a metre from the ground.
- In the 17th to 19th centuries, giant tortoises were an important food source for sailors around the Indian Ocean; in fact, they would often catch them and store them for meat in the ship’s hold.
- Unlike cartoons, real tortoises cannot actually come out of their shell. The shell forms part of their skeleton.
- Aldabra Tortoises are excellent swimmers and it is thought that this might be why giant tortoises were once found on a great many islands in the Inidian Ocean.
- Giant Tortoises were common on all islands in the western Indian Ocean until Mauritius was colonised in the 1600s when explorers and settlers started to arrive at the Seychelles islands and removed or killed the tortoises in huge numbers. By 1840, the only surviving Giant Tortoises in the wild were those on the inhospitable Aldabra atoll some 700 miles away and the unrelated Galapagos Giant Tortoises in the Pacific. In the Indian Ocean the Aldabran tortoises were saved by appeals for the conservation of Aldabra by eminent scientists of the time, including Charles Darwin and Lord Walter Rothschild.