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Aldabra tortoise

Scientific name: Geochelone gigantea


CLASS: Reptilia
ORDER: Testudines
FAMILY: Testudinidae

FEEDING TYPE: Herbivore
STATISTICS: Weight: male - 550 lbs, female - 350 lbs; length: male - 48 in, female - 36 in

DESCRIPTION:
The Aldabra tortoise is one of the giant tortoise species. It has club or elephantine feet and a very thick, domed carapace. The legs of the Aldabra tortoise have hard scales with a bony core. Its coloring is either a dark gray or black. Males are larger than females.

RANGE:
Islands in the Indian Ocean. Originally, the Aldabra tortoise evolved on Aldabra Atoll, but today there are populations on the islands of Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, and Seychelles as well as the main land of Tanzania.

HABITAT:
Semi-arid climates. The islands are a mix of coral and limestone with mangrove forests.

ADAPTATIONS:
The Aldabra tortoise is an armored animal. Its carapace (upper shell) is very thick. This makes it impermeable to water, meaning the tortoise will not dehydrate when it is on land. It is able to survive weeks without food or water in the semi-arid islands where it lives. This allows the tortoise to survive during times of drought and hardship.
The Aldabra tortoise has also developed a great defensive system. Not only is the shell impermeable to water, it also cannot be crushed under normal circumstances. The carapace provides a place of shelter from the elements and would-be predators. The head of the tortoise can be completely retracted into the shell, and the legs fold in around it. The parts of the legs that are exposed have elongated scales to deter any predator from attempting to bite that part of the animal.

The Aldabra tortoise is a species of giant tortoise. It can grow to a very large size. The enormity of the tortoise allows it to store more nutrients and materials to survive long periods of hardship. The larger the tortoise, the more supplies it can sustain in its body.

REPRODUCTION/GROWTH:
The Aldabra tortoise takes many years to mature. If it can make it to maturity, it is expected to live a long life.
The breeding season takes place from January to April. The male, the larger of the two genders, will make loud trumpet calls after he has repeatedly thrown himself against the female. After the courtship, the female experiences a ten-week gestation period. Then she will lay her eggs and incubate them from 73 – 160 days. The new baby Aldabra tortoises emerge over an eight week period at the beginning of the wet season.

PREY/PREDATOR:
Prey to man
Predator to small invertebrates, but rarely

WILD DIET:
Grasses and tubers

STATUS:
The Aldabra tortoise has a CITES Appendix II listing which means that it is not a currently threatened species; however, its trade is controlled to help protect the species. It is listed as vulnerable with IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • The natural, wild populations had been decimated by sailors who used them for meat and oil in the 1800s. Since the tortoise could go weeks without food or water without losing weight, it was a favorite among sailing ships whose occupants did not need to provide for them.
     

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
1. Carr, A. The Reptiles. New York, New York. Time Incorporated, 1963
2. CITES. October 2008 http://www.cites.org/gallery/reptile/aldabra-giant-tortoise.html
3. Hutchins, Michael. Grzimek’s Animal Encyclopedia. Second Edition, Vol. 7. Detroit, Michigan. Schlager Group, Inc. 2003
4. Inger, R.E., & Schmidt, K.P. Living Reptiles of the World. Garden City, New York. Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1960
5. Reptiles Web. October 2008. http://www.reptilesweb.com/reptiles-section/tortoise-world/aldabra-giant-tortoise.html
 

Published: June 2010

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