During a seabird survey of Cousin, staff and volunteers made an exciting discovery on the rocky plateau - a baby Aldabra Giant Tortoise. Nearby, visiting warden Glenn Jackway was guiding a group of visitors. Alerted to the young torti discovery by Nature Seychelles Science Coordinator Rachel Bristol, and Seabird Researcher Lucie Faulquier, Glenn was able to treat his group to 'exclusive' views of the find.
Baby giant tortoise © Glenn Jackway
The baby tortoise is probably just a few years old. It is estimated to weigh just 500 grams, and is a mere 15 centimetres long. It provided a rare photo opportunity for the group of visitors.
'It is very unusual to find young tortoises of this very small size in the wild,' said island manager Joel Souyave at the time. 'We have occasionally seen much larger juveniles than this, when they are around 40 centimetres long and weigh 20 kilograms or so - making them around 10 to 15 years old - and obviously a little easier to see.'
Around 30 tortoises roam freely around the island, feeding on grass, leaves and fallen fruits. The discovery of the young torti shows that the great reptiles are breeding onCousin in a 'wild state', which is great news for conservation.
Studies on Aldabra, where all today's Seychelles Giant Tortoises originate, and where a large population survives, have shown that the first five years of a young tortoise's life are fraught with dangers. It has been estimated that only 4.5% of hatchlings will make it to age five. On an island like Cousin that is free of alien predators, some of the threats are absent. It is nice to know that Cousin's oldest tortoise George, at approximately 125 years old, can groom his successors. Having survived its first few years, the new recruit has a better than average chance of matching the grand old age of George, the oldest resident and - who knows - maybe even the father.