Friday, April 27, 2012

For the Love of Turtles

If there is one type of animal that could justifyingly compete for my affections along with birds, it would be turtles. Turtles are my first love. Having been born in the Seychelles and then visited back a number of times since I left at a young age, I was always enamored with turtles as they have a big presence on the islands. You will see a figure of a turtle (by which I mean both sea turtles and tortoises) just about everywhere in the Seychelles - from t-shirts to store fronts and local artwork, including figurines made out of almost anything, and even the local currency! When my family lived in Seychelles, we even had tortoises penned up in our back yard! Some relatives have them now, and I believe they're probably over 50 years old.

A plethora of turtle figurines sold at the local marketplace

An iron turtle built within some railing

A sea turtle sand sculpture made by yours truly

I myself already have a sizable collection of all things turtle, mostly figurines and magnets from almost every place I've traveled or that others have bought for me on their travels. So not only am I that crazy bird lady, but I'm also that crazy turtle lady =) 

A sea of giant tortoises at the botanical gardens on the main island of Mahe.

There's a young fella there, and one with a gnarly scar on his shell

Aren't they wonderful!

Turtles are just so special. They just seem so sweet and unassuming, like they wouldn't hurt a fly. Sea turtles swim around in the ocean, just so chill and carefree (even though they are at risk by many threats). And the giant tortoises of the Seychelles are such gentle creatures that are adored by all. No matter how many times I've seen a giant tortoise, I am always in awe. And I've seen a sea turtle in the wild just a few times, and each time was an amazing (yet very brief) encounter. 

Nick and the Giant Tortoises (sounds like a children's book)

Me and the Giant Tortoises

The Seychelles is a very important place for sea turtles and giant tortoises. It is the area with the largest hawksbill turtle population in the Western Indian Ocean according to Nature Seychelles. Numbers declined greatly between the 1960s until the mid 1990s due to harvesting of nesting females, which are especially at risk because they are diurnal nesters. Environmental factors such as beach erosion and human disturbance are also threats to the sea turtle population. Cousin Island, which I have mentioned before as being a haven of conservation efforts for birds, also plays a key role in conservation efforts of hawksbill turtles. Unfortunately for me, I have not seen a hawksbill turtle in the wild, but I hope that changes someday. 

This gal (or guy) was especially fond of me.

Amongst all of us there, she was coming up very close to me... Closer and closer... 

Until she was right in my face! She must have known how much I love her ;-)

What I have seen many of are giant tortoises, though! There are sanctuaries spread out amongst the islands for these gentle giants. I believe that most of the tortoises are the Aldabra Giant Tortoise species rather than the Seychelles Giant Tortoise species. The status of the Seychelles Giant Tortoise is unclear. They were thought to be extinct by the mid 19th century, but there were 12 individuals in captivity that were discovered that may be this distinct species.

Here is an itty bitty baby! It was smaller than a cereal bowl!

Here are some bigger, yet still small, "giant tortoises" on Cousin Island. Notice their tags.

Adult and a juvenile giant tortoise.

At any rate, you are truly amazed once you see a giant tortoise of any species. I believe that they are generally smaller than those of the Galapagos, but they are still VERY large. Some can be as big as a sizable coffee table, and they can live for possibly over 200 years! 

Here I am again with an obliging giant tortoise

Nick and giant tortoise

Chomp, chomp, chomp... 

One individual, Esmerelda, is thought to be the oldest living giant tortoise at about 170 years old. I am pretty sure that I have met this old and wise tortoise previously when I was younger and visited Bird Island, where she resides, and which we did not have a chance to visit on our last trip. I wish I had the pictures that are back home with my mom where Esmerelda, or one of her compadres, gave us a little turtle-back ride. For now, you'll have to settle (not really) for these numerous photos of the beloved giant tortoises from our last trip. Enjoy!

"Oh, hello there!"

I think this is called "The Big Rock." It is home to a number of giant tortoises on La Digue island.


  1. Ha! Thanks for this post Maureen, it was buckets of fun and really brought me out of my shell, even if all these great pictures made it a bit...slow times : )

    There is something truly impressive, truly affecting about Tortoises and Turtles. At the very least, they're way more awesome than those wannabe snails. I remember visiting the San Diego zoo as a 7th grader. The giant Tortoises there were all feeling very. Rather oddly, I learned a lot about the birds and the bees that day. Tortoises teach across all species barriers!

    How do they measure a tortoises age?

    1. Haha. So those tortoises gave you quite a show, eh? =) I'm not sure if they age live tortoises this way, but I know with a deceased tortoise, they used carbon dating to determine the age.

  2. great post maureen!! LOOOVE the two pics of you and nick with your two big babies!!!

  3. I was a crazy turtle lady before the birding bug hit me too. I have quite the turtle collection of oddities in my house.

    Nice seeing that others have found these reptiles captivating as well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh, that's great! I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one. Thanks for stopping by =)