Aldabra Giant Tortoise

The Aldabra tortoise is an island-endemic, terrestrial species. They are one of the two remaining species out of eighteen giant tortoises that once inhabited the islands of the Western Indian Ocean. These tortoises have four subspecies, A. g. gigantean, A. g. arnoldi, A. g. daudinii, and A. g. hololissa.

Scientific Classification

A. gigantea

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

A. gigantea

Aldabra tortoises are considered one of the longest-lived animals, with some outliving the researchers who have been studying them.


Aldabra Giant Tortoise

Size: Length (Carapace): Male: 4 feet (1.22 m); Female: 3 feet (91 cm)

Weight: Male: 550 lbs (250 kg); Female: 350 lbs (159 kg).

Body and Coloration: They have a high carapace in a dome shape which is brown or tan, with four heavily scaled, stocky limbs, a narrow face, and a long neck. The females are usually smaller in comparison to the males.

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Range and Distribution

The Aldabra giant tortoise is mainly found in the Aldabra Atoll islands, Seychelles. A smaller population also lives in the Sainte Anne Marine National Park of Seychelles and the Changuu Island near Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Aldabra Giant Tortoise Habitat
Aldabra Giant Tortoise Pictures


These tortoises enjoy a variety of habitats like coastal beaches, coastal dunes, grasslands, mangrove swamps, and scrub forests.


  • Aldabra giant tortoises are diurnal, primarily active during the early morning and sometimes in the late evening. Spending most of the day submerged in swamps, under tree shades, and in small caves hiding from the sun’s heat.
  • These species travel both in groups and solitarily, mostly gathering on open grassland foraging.
  • They fully extend their necks while browsing for food. Sometimes, to reach low branches, they often stand uncertainly on their hind legs.
  • While resting, they are known to lie on the ground on the underside of their shell with their limbs and necks slightly drawn back.
  • Adult males walk with their carapace high above the ground and their limbs vertically extended.
  • They have a seasonal-basis migration pattern. Throughout the dry seasons, they are scattered around in various habitats. However, they move towards open grasslands and scrubland areas during the first rain.


The lifespan of an Aldabra giant tortoise ranges from 80 – 120 years. However, it can extend up to 150 years.


  • Their shells act as armor that protects the vulnerable body of the tortoise underneath.
  • They have eyes on both sides of their heads, which helps them to detect movement in their surroundings if threatened.
  • Their well-developed sense of smell allows them to find food and also suitable mates. It also helps them to detect the presence of predators.
  • These tortoises have long necks that help to tear leaves from high branches.
Aldabra Giant Tortoise Baby
Aldabra Giant Tortoise Image

Mating and Reproduction

They are polygynandrous and choose mates according to their relative size. The breeding season lasts from December to May. In a dry and shallow nest, females lay clutches of 9-25 rubbery eggs. The incubation period lasts from 110-250 days, depending on the temperature of its surrounding. Females are known to lay a second clutch of eggs within the same breeding season.

After laying eggs, the females show no further involvement as a parent. The newly hatched tortoise digs out of the nest by itself. They are about 3 inches long. Hatchlings from warmer temperatures are usually female, and the ones from cooler temperatures are typically male. They reach their reproductive maturity not by age but when they reach half of their full-grown size, which generally is around 25 years old.


Due to their isolated nature and massive size, the adults can avoid any major predatorial threats. However, the young tortoises become the prey of giant crabs capable of breaking through their relatively soft carapace. Other than that, dogs and cats also hunt them.

Conservation Status

The status of the Aldabra giant tortoise in the Red List of Threatened Species of the IUCN is “Vulnerable” or “VU”.

In the conservation parks of Mauritius and Rodrigues, a small population of these tortoises has been kept in captivity. Different animals invading their habitat due to human interference threaten their survival.  

Jonathan the Giant Tortoise
Photos of Aldabra Giant Tortoise

Interesting Facts

  • Mexican biologist José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez referred to these giant tortoises as the “ninjas of the tortoise world” because of their unusual behavior of tipping onto their backs and failing to get back up.
  • Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise (a subspecies of the Aldabra giant tortoise), is the longest-living tortoise at 190 years and counting.

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