New Beginnings

By January 26, 2017Nature

Over the course of December and January, North Island released all of the baby Aldabra Giant Tortoises into the wild. At the same time, we have been very lucky to find four new hatchlings in December, for which we have built a brand-new pen attached to the Environment Office. Baby tortoises are kept in a pen for 3 to 6 years to protect them until they are big enough to be seen easily on the roads (when they are roughly the size of a coconut). With plenty of food and a ready supply of water, they are thriving in their new home; and with evidence suggesting that Aldabra Giant Tortoises may live to over 200 years old, they can look forward to a long and happy life ahead of them on North Island.

We typically release baby Aldabra tortoises from November to March when the local fruits are in full production, and we place them in an environment where food and water are readily available to them. This makes the transition easier for them as they do not need to search too far for sustenance. This season we have released a total of seven tortoises:

  • 2 were released close to the helipad plateau region (close to the marsh and vegetable garden),
  • 3 were released into the forest on Saddle road which leads to West Beach, and
  • 2 were released close to the baby tortoise pen near the tree nursery.

Our new releases join their 80 to 100 friends and family members on the Island. Our oldest member, Brutus, is estimated to be in the region of 160 to 180 years old but he is not our heaviest. Patrick weighs over 200 kilograms, in comparison to our new finds which weighed only 40 to 50g at hatching. Brutus and Patrick are two of the original three tortoises that were believed to be on the Island when it was bought in 1997. More tortoises were introduced via donations from Mahé as well as breeding programs on Silhouette and Anonyme Island. As an endangered endemic animal in the Seychelles, North Island is committed to protecting these majestic giants.

We are about to enter breeding season from February to May and hope to see more babies join the North Island family. However on North this timeframe does not seem to apply, as our enthusiastic tortoises can be seen (and heard) mating throughout most of the year. Females can lay anywhere from 5 to 30 eggs, which remain in the ground for 4 to 6 months (very variable due to temperature). Unfortunately, fertility is quite low, at about 50% – females will often lay clutches of eggs that have not been fertilised and will not hatch. Despite low fertility rates, survival on rat-free islands such as North is quite high as they have no predators to hinder their long life on the Island.

Our environmentalists would love for you to visit the baby tortoise pen. You can help us feed them while we share more information with you about North Island’s Aldabra Giant Tortoises. The four babies are also yet to be named – we would love to hear your suggestions!