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The big, old Aldabra Tortoise

Updated on July 22, 2012

Introducing the Aldabra Tortoise

Aldabra tortoises would love for you to come visit them. Aldabra tortoises are extremely large animals with some males weighing as much as 794 pounds. The females are smaller weighing in at just 330 pounds on the average. Many people confuse them with the Galapagos giant tortoise, because they are of similar size.

Their Anatomy

The Aldabra tortoise’s shell is brown or tan in color, rising to a high point in the middle. Those tortoises living in areas where food is plentiful, such as the Aldabra Atoll have flatter shells, while those living where food is harder to get. The Aldabra tortoises use their very large scaly legs to support their enormous weight. They also have extremely long necks, which allow them to reach their food up to 3 feet off the ground. In fact, these tortoises which live mainly off vegetation, have been known to stand on their back legs to reach a leave that is higher up and looks particularly inviting. This will sometimes cause the tortoise to die, as they get on their backs and cannot get turned back over.


Their Habitat

In the wild, they mainly live on the Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles, the second largest atoll in the world, consisting of four large land masses made of corral, which have been repeatedly raised from the Indian Ocean floor. Some 150,000 Aldabra tortoises call the atoll home. In fact, the Aladabra tortoises have determined what plants grow on the atoll. The grass on the atoll is mainly a Pemohis acidula thicket, although some other shrubs do exist. These plants are unique as they grow their seeds close to the ground, since the tortoises like to eat the tops of plants. The tortoises eating pattern clears paths which other animals enjoy using.


Where to Find them

The Aldabra tortoises also live in three other places in the wild. These places are a Zanzibar island, Mauritius and Rodrigues. The tortoise is an early riser, enjoying eating their food early in the day. Later, they will rest in underground burrows or in the swamps where it is cooler. Scientists do not understand why some tortoises prefer to live by themselves, while others prefer to live in small groups. These tortoises are great swimmers and can travel uncharacteristically fast on land.


Their Lifespan

The tortoises are known to live an extraordinary long life. One tortoise, named Esmeralda, is thought to be 176 years old. Scientists have used carbon dating to determine the age of one tortoise that died in captivity. They believe the tortoise was 225 years old. Aldabra tortoises typically lay around 15 eggs in a shallow dry nest, although only about half of these eggs are fertile. The eggs must be incubated for eight months before the young are born.


Other Animals of the Atoll

Also making its home on the atoll is the Coconut crab which is the world’s largest land crab. The atoll is also known for its green turtles and hawksbill turtles. Birds on the atoll include the last surviving flightless bird of the region known as the Aldabra rail, along with the Malagasy Sacred Ibis which is endangered. The atoll is also home to one of only two known wild habitats of oceanic flamingos. Two bats also are known to exist in only this area. They are the Paratriaenops pauliana and the Pteropus aldabrensis.


Visiting The Aldabra Tortoise

Visitors are invited to visit the Aldabra tortoises on the Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles. Unlike many animals, the tortoises love human company never having learned to be afraid of them. Many will let you play with them, and they love to have their necks scratched. Tourism is important for the survival of these large animals, as it allows funding for scientists to help them survive. So please plan your visit today.


Aldabra Tortoises on Youtube


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    • profile image

      SteveKaye 3 years ago

      I'm going to give a talk about birds to a turtle club in Redlands, CA. Yes, I know that's odd, but they told me that I was welcome as long as I showed at least one photo of a turtle.

    • profile image

      John 5 years ago

      4th photo are not Aldabra tortoises,they are Sulcata.

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa

      Amazing how these prehistoric creatures have survived through the ages. Their long lifespans probably contribute tpwards this, Very informative hub nd excellent photos.