Giant tortoise census officially launched |29 April 2023
The Aldabra Giant Tortoise census was officially launched yesterday at Cap Lazare.
The census, which is a collaboration between the department of Environment and the Indian Ocean Tortoise Alliance (IOTA), aims to gather ecological data on the giant tortoise of Mahé and micro chipping.
To launch the activity a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the principal secretary for environment, Denis Matatiken, and project director for IOTA, Richard Baxter.
The MoU covers the multiple areas for collaboration such as; research, data collection, and surveys.
It will also help facilitate the team in understanding the ecology of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise.
After the signing, PS Matatiken said the census will be a great opportunity to share research and data with not only the ministry but the people of Seychelles.
“There will also be a number of issues that will come up during the census that we can help tackle,” PS Matatiken stated.
Presently, the number of tortoises active is unknown, but through the census, the ministry should be able to establish how many of them are there.
“We can use all this information and if we need to make any policy decisions, we can do so with the data provided.”
Mr Baxter stated that IOTA is here to help understand the situation in Seychelles in regards to giant tortoises.
“We are primarily here to promote them as an icon of conservation and a species that Seychelles should be proud of,” he said.
The tortoises will be micro chipped to get better data in terms of their growth rate. In extreme cases where a tortoise may go missing or stolen, the owner of the tortoise will be able to retrieve it.
The census will also provide an opportunity to see how people are treating their tortoises as pets and whether the essentials such as living conditions and food.
“It will also help better educate the people on the upkeep of these animals,” said PS Matatiken.
Shemilla Jeremie, the assistant conservation officer, explained that the census will help establish whether the situation with the tortoises from 2012, which were 4500 tortoises, is stable. The census will also look into the welfare of giant tortoises. The donated microchips from Parco Natura Viva will be injected into the tortoises to benefit the public.
“This is why we are encouraging the public to register their tortoises,” she said. For those who have already registered their tortoises, they will be able to pick up a certificate to signify that their tortoise is tagged.
PS Matatiken explained to the press that the MoU signing and launch of the census will help the ministry in what it does not know about.
“The IOTA can help us by having this census, and we want to have these tortoises micro chipped for research purposes so that we can do follow ups on individual animals,” he stated.
Mr Baxter said the intention is for IOTA to understand the situation on the inner islands of the Seychelles. On Aldabra, there is an estimate of over 100,000 tortoises. The census will help achieve accurate data on the number of tortoises on the other islands, primarily Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. Once the IOTA gets the necessary information, it will better be able to manage the tortoise population.
“Just like the human population, it is growing and it is growing very fast.”
The public relations brand manager for Creole Travel Services, Dianne Dalida, stated that Cap Lazare has always strived to keep the nature reserve as natural as possible.
“We fully support the ministry and IOTA to ensure that our national treasure, the giant tortoise, is well established,” she said.
The ministry will also be working with other non-governmental organisations to target specific species.
The accompanying photos show some highlights of yesterday’s ceremony at Cap Lazare.
Text & photos by Sunny Esparon