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Safari Africa Animal Fact Sheet

Geochelone gigantea

Aldabra Island in the Indian Ocean, near the Seychelles.

The Aldabra giant tortoise is the only surviving giant species in the Indian Ocean part of the world, although formerly they were much more widely distributed with populations being established on the Mauritius, the Seychelles and other neighboring islands.  Tortoises in the Indian Ocean suffered even more than the Galapagos tortoises because of human predation.  Most of the giant tortoises of the Indian Ocean were literally eaten out of existence by man before 1800.  By the beginning of the 19th century, three of the four races had vanished, leaving only the Aldabran giant tortoise alive today.  The island of Aldabra is as flat as a pancake and is difficult to see by navigators and is remote to present day sea lanes.  It is this very remoteness and isolation which have saved Aldabra’s unique plant and animal life, unlike the less fortunate Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos’ close proximity to major shipping lanes nearly resulted in the decimation of its wildlife.  Thousands of tortoises were carried off the islands and stored upside down in the holds of ships to serve as a ready supply of fresh meat.  Few sailors were summoned to Aldabra which was distant and virtually devoid of fresh water.

These tortoises often wallow in mud, and this seems to afford a means of protection against the myriad mosquitoes found on Aldabra.  By coating the fleshy part of its body with mud, it creates a protective layer which may act as a deterrent to the probing proboscis of the mosquito.


Grasslands, scrub areas and mangrove swamps.

Diet: Grasses, fruits and succulent plants.
Status: Vulnerable (IUCN)
Approximate Dimensions of Adult:

Weight: Up to 560 pounds
Length: Average 56 inches

Lifespan: Oldest recorded: 152 years old.
Reproduction & Offspring: Lay 9 to 25 tennis ball-sized eggs. The incubation period ranges from 73 to 160 days.


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