Aldabra Tortoise

Aldabra tortoise outside at Wingham Wildlife Park

Aldabra Tortoise Natural History

Size

The Aldabra tortoise is one of the largest tortoises and they can grow over 1 meter (up to 3.5 ft) long and weigh up to 250kg (550 lbs).

Habitat and Distribution

This tortoise mostly inhabits grasslands and swamps on the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles but will venture to more rocky areas when food is sparse. They may even cool themselves by laying in very shallow water.

Age

The lifespan of an Aldabra tortoise is anywhere between 80-150 years. However, one captive male was reported to be 255 when he died.

Diet

Aldabra tortoises typically eat seasonally available vegetation and they can reach on their hind legs to browse higher leaves. However, they may also supplement their diet with invertebrates and carrion.

Groups and Breeding

It takes 20- 30 years for an Aldabra tortoise to reach maturity at which point they will be half of their full-grown size. Females lay up to 25 eggs in a shallow nest between February and May which are vulnerable to predators. Hatchlings will emerge after 3.5-7 months depending on the temperature.

Threats

Aldabra tortoises were heavily hunted by sailors though the 17th and 18th centuries for their meat and eggs and almost became extinct within a 100-year span (many other species from the same range are now extinct for this reason). Additionally, they have lost much of their natural habitat due to human settlements and must compete for food particularly with the introduction of goats which are fast grazers. Climate change and rising sea levels also pose a threat to these island reptiles. The IUCN currently lists this species as vulnerable.

However, their atoll is now protected as a World Heritage Site and captive breeding programmes are repopulating this vulnerable species.

Interesting facts

Charles Darwin was involved with gaining protection for the species in the Aldabra Atoll.

The Aldabra Tortoises During Your Day Out in Kent

The Aldabra tortoises at Wingham Wildlife Park can be seen next to the dinosaur zoo.