Tortoise, Aldabra


Geochelone gigantae


Aldabra tortoises are one of the largest land tortoises, second only to the Galapagos tortoise. Males can weigh up to 550 pounds, while females can weigh up to 350 pounds. They have a high domed carapace that is dark gray in color. The carapace can reach four feet in length on males and three feet in length on females. Limbs are stocky and covered in bony scales. Neck is long, which aids in food gathering.

Family

Testudinae

Order

Testudines

Class

Reptilia

Range

Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles

Habitat

Grasslands, scrub, coastal dunes and mangrove swamps

Life Expectancy

Possibly over 100 years!

Sexual Maturity

As with other reptiles, sexual maturity is based on size and not age. This species reaches sexual maturity when they are approximately half of their full grown size, which typically occurs at 25 years of age.

Diet

Aldabra tortoises primarily feed on grasses and woody plants. However, they will occasionally eat small invertebrates and carrion.

Status

IUCN - Vulnerable, CITES Appendix II

Behaviors

Aldabra tortoises can be found both individually and in herds. They are most active in the morning and late evening. It is during these times that activities such as mating, feeding and walking occur. Breeding season lasts from February to May. Males will usually select smaller mates to breed with. When mating, the male will make loud, bellowing calls. Females will lay one to two clutches of eggs during a single breeding season. After mating, the female will carry the eggs for 10 weeks and then deposit them in a shallow, dry nest. Typical clutch size is 9-25 eggs. Incubation time is dependent on temperature. In warm temperatures, the incubation period lasts approximately 110 days. In cool temperatures, the incubation period lasts 250 days. Eggs are about the size of a tennis ball and the hatchlings weigh an average of 50 grams. Like other turtle species, Aldabra tortoises have no parental involvement after nesting. The young will hatch and dig out of the nest completely on their own.

Adaptions

Special Interests

Aldabra tortoises are the largest animal on Aldabra Atoll. As the main vegetation consumers, they play a large role in altering the habitat.

Folklore

Conservation

Aldabra tortoises were one of the first species to become “protected”. They were once considered a food source to sailors during the 17th to 19th centuries. Habitat destruction and introduced predators on eggs caused an isolation of the populations. There were once 18 species of giant tortoises on the islands in the Indian Ocean. Today, the Aldabra tortoise is the only surviving Indian Ocean giant tortoise species in the wild. Human poaching and encroachment are currently causing the vulnerability of this species.

Jacksonville Zoo History

Exhibit

Plains of East Africa