Aldabra tortoises are the second largest land tortoise. They have a thick, domed carapace (upper part of the shell) that is dark grey to black in color. Their limbs are thick and covered in scales, and they have a small, pointed head. Aldabra tortoises do not have teeth, but instead use their beak to tear apart their food.
Diet: Aldabra tortoises are mainly herbivorous, eating lots of vegetation. However they can supplement their diet with carrion, or the decaying flesh of animals. At the Zoo, the tortoises eat lots of produce like collard greens, kale, and carrots, as well as browse and hay. As a treat, the Aldabra tortoises can eat watermelon, cantaloupe, and pumpkin.
In the Wild: Endemic to the islands of Aldabra off the coast of Africa, these tortoises can live in a variety of habitats from swampy mangrove and scrub, to grassy plains. They are the main consumers of vegetation on the island chain and spread the seeds of the fruit they have eaten. They also are known to knock down small trees and make pathways within the forests for other animals. Aldabra tortoises reach maturity around 25 years of age and have a breeding season of February through May. They can lay up to 25 eggs at a time, only half of which are typically fertile. Eggs laid in cooler weather will take longer to hatch than those laid in warmer weather.
Conservation issues/actions: Through the 17th to 19th centuries, Aldabra tortoises were hunted for meat. Currently, the biggest threats are habitat destruction, sea level rise, and the introduction of mammals. Cats, and rats prey on eggs and hatchlings. Feral goats also compete for food resources.
At the Zoo:
In the summer, the animal care staff gives the tortoises a shower to assist with thermoregulation in order to help cool them down. Showers also encourage the tortoises to stand up tall, a behavior that is used for exercise here at the Zoo, as well as to allow them to reach higher vegetation as they would need to in the wild. The Aldabra tortoises also receive tactile enrichment, such as having their shell and scales gently scrubbed with a brush. This form of enrichment allows the animal care staff to look over them for cracks in the shell and other health concerns.