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Seychelles Giant Tortoise Conservation

Article by GVI


Posted: February 24, 2023

The Seychelles giant tortoise is a magnificent creature that has captured the hearts of people around the world. Endemic to the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean, this species is one of the largest and most endangered tortoises on the planet. Its unique history, fascinating habitats, and critical conservation efforts make it a species of great importance. Despite being on the brink of extinction, conservationists are working tirelessly to save these gentle giants and ensure their survival for future generations.

History of Seychelles giant tortoises

The Seychelles giant tortoise is one of two species of giant tortoises that call the Seychelles home. It is believed to have evolved from a common ancestor some 19 million years ago. Historically, these tortoises were abundant on all of the major islands, however, their numbers have severely declined due to overharvesting by humans. This species is now considered critically endangered and restricted to just two islands Cousin and Silhouette Island.

In an effort to protect the Seychelles giant tortoise, conservationists have been working to reintroduce the species to other islands in Seychelles. This has been done by collecting eggs from the two remaining islands and incubating them in captivity. Once the eggs hatch, the tortoises are released into the wild on other islands. This has been a success as the population of Seychelles giant tortoises is slowly increasing.

Habitats of Seychelles giant tortoises

These islands are known for their unique habitats, which have become home to the Seychelles giant tortoise, which have adapted perfectly to the environment. They are herbivores and feed on lowland vegetation. They require moist and shady habitats to remain cool and moist during hot days, as they do not sweat, and rely heavily on water sources nearby. The young hatchlings also can rely on weeds, shrubs and other vegetation for food. The most suitable habitat for them is near rivers and lakes, which provide the necessary water sources.

The Seychelles giant tortoise is a critically endangered species, and their habitats are under threat from human activities such as deforestation and overgrazing. Conservation efforts are underway to protect their habitats and ensure their survival. These efforts include the creation of protected areas, the reintroduction of tortoises to their natural habitats, and the implementation of sustainable land management practices.

Conservation efforts

Due to their critically endangered status, significant efforts are being made to conserve these animals. In 2001, a program was developed by the Seychelles Wildlife Society focused on establishing three reserve sites for giant tortoises – Cousin Island Special Reserve, Silhouette Island Special Reserve and Fregate Island Special Reserve. These reserves protect and nurture these species, with major conservation efforts being undertaken such as fencing areas off from human activity, reintroducing tortoises from other countries, protecting them from predators and providing veterinary care.

In addition to the reserves, the Seychelles Wildlife Society also works to educate the public about the importance of conservation. They have created a variety of educational materials, such as brochures, posters and videos, to help spread awareness about the giant tortoises and the need to protect them. They also host events and activities to engage the public and encourage them to take part in conservation efforts.

Challenges of Seychelles giant tortoise conservation

Human activities can disturb their habitats, particularly where they are in close proximity to humans. Invasive plants can overrun fast-growing native vegetation, as well as disturb nesting sites. One of the major efforts being undertaken is protecting the population from disease and parasites which could threaten their populations.

In addition, the Seychelles giant tortoise is threatened by illegal poaching and the illegal pet trade. Poachers often target the tortoises for their meat, shells and eggs. The illegal pet trade is also a major threat, as the tortoises are often captured and sold as exotic pets. To combat these threats, conservationists are working to increase public awareness of the species and the importance of protecting them.

Volunteer to protect Seychelles giant tortoises

Come volunteer with GVI in Seychelles and help protect the critically endangered giant tortoise and preserve the island’s biodiversity. As a volunteer, you’ll work alongside our expert field staff, monitoring and protecting tortoise populations, restoring habitat and conducting biodiversity surveys. 

You’ll also have the chance to snorkel in crystal clear waters and explore the vibrant coral reefs. By volunteering on this program, you’ll make a real difference in the conservation of these incredible species while immersing yourself in one of the most beautiful and remote parts of the world.

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