All About the Aldabra Giant Tortoise

The Aldabra Giant Tortoise is one of the most remarkable animals to share our planet. Sporting a magnificent dark brown or black shell and distinctive features, looking at one is like looking at a reptile of ancient origins. 

Aldabra Giant-Tortoise

Known by the scientific name of, Aldabrachelys gigantean, Aldabra Giant Tortoises are among the largest species of tortoise in the world. The only similar species that is larger than them is the Galapagos tortoise.

What you should know

You can find the aptly named Aldabra Giant Tortoises on Aldabra Island among the Seychelles northeast of Madagascar. The Aldabra Giant Tortoises prefer to stick to the mangrove swamps and dunes of their island home. There they peacefully graze on the grasses, woody plants, and other vegetation. Similar to other members of the tortoise family, these reptiles can go on for long periods of time with no food or water.

They are known to knock over small trees to gain access to desirable nutrients. Their grazing can have a visible effect on the land. When given the opportunity, Aldabra Giant Tortoises will dine on meat including the carcasses of their fellow tortoises.

The carapace generally measures around four feet in length, making them about a foot longer on average than the females. As typical in the animal kingdom, males also weigh considerably more than their female counterparts. A male can weigh 550 pounds! Females, on the other hand, weigh approx. 350 pounds.   

What sound do they make?

For the most part, the Aldabra giant Tortoise is rather quiet and moves very slowly. One exception is when they are mating.

Group characteristics

The breeding season for these tortoises falls between the months of February and May. The female will dig a nest several months after mating. The nests are usually 10 inches underground where they lay between 4-14 eggs. The eggs will hatch 3-6 months later, producing tiny tortoises that are but 3 inches long.

How many are there?

Between the 18th and 19th centuries, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise was brought uncomfortably close to extinction when they were hunted down for food. Currently, there are around 100,000-150,000 Aldabra Giant Tortoises roaming the wilds freely. Although their numbers are very much improved from several hundred years ago, the balance is still delicate.  

Watch a video

You can see these remarkable tortoises in action in this video which features generous shots of their native island’s natural splendor.  

Pop culture

While not terribly prominent in pop culture, one Aldabra Giant Tortoise affectionately known as, Jonathon, is something of a celebrity. He is widely thought to be the oldest known animal on the planet. Judging by his age, it’s hard to disagree, as Jonathon the Giant Tortoise is currently 187 years old. He was but a humble hatchling in the year of 1832, making him older than the automobile. Needless to say, he has outlived many a human and has undoubtedly seen quite a lot over the years! 

Interesting facts

As a general rule, tortoises of any nature need to avoid extended exposure to the hot sun. When it comes to beating the heat, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise has proven to be a most ingenious and innovative reptile. They are the only species of tortoises that are known to escape the heat by hiding out in caves on their native Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean.

With the exception of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, their cousin tortoises have never been found to inhabit caves. One has to admit that the strategy indicates intelligence as the animal has found an effective solution to avoiding excessive and potentially harmful heat.

Their longevity is a truly remarkable trait deserving of mention. While Jonathan has most of them beat, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise can expect an average lifespan of 65-90 years.  

Living so long is a truly magnificent feat. For this reason among many other, Aldabra Giant Tortoises deserve our respect. These incredible animals are among the most fascinating reptiles in the world. To lose them forever would be an unspeakable detriment to the richness and diversity of the animal kingdom.