Giant tortoises, that disappeared before dodo birds, are set to return in Madagascar 600 years after they were hunted to extinction in the East African island country. The comeback of the large tortoise species called Aldabrachelys gigantea or the Aldabra giant tortoise is part of a six-year-old project to return megaherbivore reptile back to the wild habitats of Madagascar.
The Aldabra giant tortoise species received its name from another place it inhabited millions of years ago. Their species were once called Aldabrachelys abrupta and lived in Madagascar for 15 million years, but migrated to the island of Aldabra 4 million years ago. Aldabra is located 1,000 kilometers southwest of Seychelles, another island nation off East Africa and an archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
The A. abrupta giant tortoise is one of the two giant tortoises that inhabited Madagascar, as mentioned earlier. Eventually, they moved to Aldabra and evolved into a third species that we know today. Their migration somehow helped the preservation of their species even if millions of years of evolution transitioned them to become the A. gigantea tortoise species.
Giant Tortoises Return to Madagascar
The project of returning giant tortoises to Madagascar has already started in 2018, when the first batch of Aldabra giant tortoises were brought into the country from Seychelles. Since then, the animals have been reproducing on their own and without any human intervention. The move can also be called a reintroduction to restore the local giant tortoise population in Madagascar.
Aldabra, being the world’s second-largest coral atoll Seychelles, is witnessing the dissemination of its giant tortoise inhabitants to their initial home in Madagascar. Scientists believe that tortoises can help vegetation in the country. During the 16th century, hunters caused all of the endemic extinction of the Aldabra giant tortoise.
Also Read: Dodo Might Be Resurrected After Scientists Examine Extinct Bird’s Dna For the First Time
Hunted to Extinction
For a long time, wildlife and conservation experts have believed that humans played a major role when it comes to the extinction of Madagascar’s giant tortoises, as well as the now-extinct dodo bird endemic in Mauritius. The latter is located over 1,100 kilometers east of Madagascar. This means that the arrival of humans during the 16th and 17th centuries disrupted the natural habitats of these animals.
Despite their decimation in the past, the Aldabra giant tortoises could thrive this time amid the strong conservation effort towards the species.
Aside from the reintroduction of these animals, the giant tortoises are also expected to restore the island’s forests and even prevent forest fires and other wildland fires, according to ecologist Gran Joseph, as cited in a report on Sunday, January 4.
The Aldabra giant tortoise is one of the Earth’s largest land tortoises, second to the Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra). These gargantuan animals can live for 100 years and are known for possessing a social behavior. This is evident as they have been observed to gather in large numbers to forage and sleep together.
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