The Aldabra Giant Tortoise (Aldabrachelys elephantina) is named after its habitat, the islands of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. The main population of this giant tortoise resides on this atoll, but another isolated population has been introduced by man on the island of Zanzibar. After the Galapagos Tortoise, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise is one of the largest tortoises of the world, with more than 1m body length. The average weight of a male is around 250kg, females are generally smaller than males, with average specimens weighing 150kg. Like other tortoises, Aldabra Giant Tortoises can live for more than 100 years.
The carapace is a dark grey or black colour with a high domed shape. It has stocky, heavily scaled legs to support its heavy body. The neck of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise is very long, even for its great size, which helps the animal to exploit tree branches up to a meter from the ground as a food source.
Primarily herbivores, Aldabra Tortoises will eat grasses, leaves, and woody plant stems. They occasionally indulge in small invertebrates and carrion, even eating the bodies of other dead tortoises. In captivity, Aldabra Giant Tortoises are known to enjoy fruits such as apples and bananas as well as compressed vegetable pellets. Although fresh water is available for drinking in the tortoises’ natural habitat, they obtain most of their moisture from their food.
In Aldabra Tortoises, sexual maturity is determined by size, not by age. They reach sexual maturity when they attain about half their final size. Mating occurs from February to March. After that, females lay between 10 and 25 rubbery eggs in a shallow, dry nest. In these eggs, the rate of infertility is high, since only approximately 60% of them are fertilised. After an incubation period of 8 months, the young tortoises hatch between October and November. The giant tortoises do not fear humans, they are remarkably indifferent to their presence.
Aldabra Giant Tortoise, Aldabrachelys elephantina
How are they? These giant tortoises can reach 1m in length and average body weights of 250kg in males, and 150kg in females. Their carapace is a dark grey or black colour with a high domed shape. They have stocky, heavily scaled legs to support their heavy body. The neck of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise is very long, even for its great size.
How to differentiate males and females? The male has a bigger carapace and its tail is wider.
How is the species geographically distributed? The species is endemic to the islands of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles.
Where do they live? On grasslands, low scrub, and coastal dunes.
What do they feed on? Mainly on herbs, leaves and branches, but occasionally, they feed on invertebrates or carrion, including the bodies of other dead tortoises.