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Aldabra Giant Tortoise Fact File

Aldabrachelys gigantea

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

Weight

150-250kg

(330-550lbs)

Length

0.9-1.1m

(3-3.6ft)

Lifespan

Wild 100+ years

Captive 100+ years

Diet

Herbivorous

Grasses, Leaves

Conservation Status

IUCN

Vulnerable

The Aldabra giant tortoise is recognized as the world’s second largest species of land tortoise. They are native to a series of islands off the east coast of Africa.

Here they seek out a range of grasses and leaves on which these herbivorous animals can feed.

Females produce a single clutch of eggs each year with between nine and twenty five eggs. Typically though only half of the clutch is fertile.

These animals are being threatened by climate change.

Read on to learn more about these remarkable reptiles.

Appearance

What does the Aldabra giant tortoise look like?

Aldabra giant tortoises are recognized as the world’s second largest species of land turtle.

Males are significantly larger and also have a thicker tail. They can reach lengths up to 1.1m (3.6ft) while females are slightly smaller at 0.9m (2.95ft) long. Their weight ranges between 150 and 250kg (330-550lbs).

Giant tortoises are most noticeable due to their large domed shell. This acts as protection against predators as their body is quite soft. Their neck is elongated allowing them to reach up and tear leaves from branches.

Their legs are short and round with almost flat feet. They are covered with thick, bony scales. These assist them when they are walking across sand.

Their skin is a black or brown and the shell is brown.

Diet

What does the Aldabra giant tortoise eat?


Aldabra giant tortoises are herbivorous animals. They feed upon grasses, leaves and woody plant stems. They will eat these food items even if they have dried out. Some evidence suggests that on occasion they take some carrion and potentially they may even eat another tortoise.

The shell adapts to the tortoises environment. Those in habitats where most of the food is on the ground have a shell which comes down over the neck and it is more dome shaped. Those where food is taken from the trees have a shell with a raised front and flattened top allowing the neck to extend up.

Fresh water is at a premium in this tortoises habitat. This means most of their moisture is taken from their food.

Aldabra Giant Tortoise

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

Range

Where can you find the Aldabra giant tortoise?

The Aldabra Giant Tortoise is found mostly on the Aldabra Atoll which is part of the Seychelles Island chain which is in the Indian Ocean. Populations also exist on Mauritius and Rodrigues along with a colony on Changuu Island near Zanzibar.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the Aldabra giant tortoise live in?

They reside in low scrub, grasslands, mangrove swamps and coastal dunes. Large concentrations of tortoises occur in grasslands known as platins. They will wander into sparse rocky areas when food is scarce but most of the time they live in vegetated areas.

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Reproduction

How does the Aldabra giant tortoise produce its young?

Breeding begins in February and ends in May. The eggs are carried by the female for ten weeks.

Males are highly territorial and fight one another to gain a territory and breeding rights with the females within.

During mating the male and female will make a deep grunting noise.

Nine to twenty-five eggs with a rubbery shell are deposited into a dry and shallow nest which the female will dig. These eggs are each around the size of a tennis ball.

On average about half of the eggs are fertile. Females in high density areas produce smaller clutches, less frequently. In low density areas they may produce several clutches each season.

It takes eight months of incubation before the eggs hatch. This means they will emerge from their eggs between October and December.

Maturity is not reached until somewhere between 20 and 30 years of age for this species.

Behavior

What does the Aldabra giant tortoise do with its day?

These animals vary between being solitary and roaming in herds.

Most of their activity occurs in the morning. This is when they go browsing for food aiming to avoid warm temperatures. During the day they may dig underground or rest in a puddle of water.

Much of their day is spent sleeping. This may take up 18 hours of their day.

Aldabra giant tortoises will wallow in mud. This provides protection to their skin against mosquitoes.

These animals will allow birds and lizards under their shell or in to skin folds where they remove parasites which may be attached to them.

Credit: Zoos Victoria

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the Aldabra giant tortoise?

Predators include dogs and goats who eat the tortoises along with their food. A species of giant crab living on the island feeds upon young tortoises.

Climate change is posing a large threat to this species. They were previously hunted to near extinction by sailors but have since been offered legal protection and this trade has now slowed.

Quick facts

Aldabra giant tortoises appear to have no fear of humans which is part of the reason settlers were able to hunt them so easily.

They were referred to as the ‘ninjas’ of the tortoise world by Mexican biologist Jose Antonio de Alzate y Rammirez. This is due to the perilous acrobatic acts they undertake to reach low hanging branches.

There used to be 18 tortoise species living in the Indian ocean with all but the Aldabra giant tortoise hunted to extinction by sailors along with the rats, cats and pigs that they brought to the islands.

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

References

Aldabra Giant Tortoise Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com KidsKonnect, February 17, 2020

Smithsonian’s National Zoo. 2020. Aldabra Tortoise. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/aldabra-tortoise> [Accessed 24 April 2020].

Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. 1996. Geochelone gigantea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: e.T9010A12949962. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T9010A12949962.en. Downloaded on 24 April 2020.

Seaworld.org. 2021. Aldabra Tortoise Facts and Information | SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. [online] Available at: <https://seaworld.org/animals/facts/reptiles/aldabra-tortoise/> [Accessed 13 October 2021].

Australia Zoo. 2021. Aldabra Tortoise. [online] Available at: <https://www.australiazoo.com.au/wildlife/our-animals/aldabra-tortoise/> [Accessed 13 October 2021].

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