Mauritian Wildlife Foundation - Tortoises

Link to the wild

To purchase vital equipment to aid with the monitoring of endangered tortoises in restoration projects on Indian Ocean islands

The Project

The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation are in the process of re-populating  and restoring various islands surrounding Mauritius. We aim to aid in the restoration of Round Island by purchasing a variety of equipment essential for tagging and monitoring wild tortoise behaviour.

The Target
£1K

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius (Mascarenes), famed as the home of the long-lost Dodo, was a pristine paradise until man began colonization in the 17th century. In the last 400 years, we have seen the devastating impact overexploitation by man and the introduction of invasive species can have on an area of unique biodiversity. The island - around 790 square miles - has a current population of 1.3 million people. The islands biodiversity is incredibly unique - it hosts over 700 species of flowering plant alone, of which 246 are endemic. The work carried out in Mauritius in recent decades is one of the world's most successful conservation stories - approximately 7% of species brought back from the brink of extinction are from Mauritius.

Before humans settled on the Mascarene Islands there were several species of Giant Tortoises – the density of tortoises was reportedly the highest on the planet with unique species living in Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion. When humans arrived, giant tortoises were harvested as food on ships for passing sailors, as well as being killed by introduced invasive species (e.g. cats, dogs, rats, pigs). Today only the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, native to the Seychelles, survives in this area. Unfortunately, tortoises today also face severe threat from being sold in to the illegal pet trade in Mauritius.

Chelonians (tortoises, turtles and terrapins) are ancient and unique - an oddity in evolution, they have proven to be one of the hardiest animals to have ever existed. Tortoises have inhabited the planet for 200 million years, have survived mass extinctions, and have colonised several continents. They can grow to an enormous size with some species living up to two hundred years when given the chance! 

Truly Giant Tortoises once roamed the planet, but sadly are only found in small island pockets today - the Galapagos islands and the Aldabra Atoll and the Mascarenes. Giant tortoises are incredibly important to the environment in which they live, acting as grazers, browsers and seed dispersers. They help regenerate and populate remote islands with native and, in many cases, endemic plants and trees. If an entire ecosystem is not flourishing, the animals which call it home will not be able to survive.

The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) is the only non-governmental organization (NGO) in Mauritius solely concentrating on preserving both the islands animal and plant species. MWF work on mainland Mauritius, as well as offshore islets and the island of Rodrigues, with a long-term goal of recreating lost ecosystems by saving endangered species and restoring native forests. MWF are rearing, translocating and releasing free-roaming wild Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) to Round Island to support ongoing ecosystem restoration by reintroducing lost plant-tortoise interactions. The last wild tortoise in the Mascarenes was collected from Round Island in 1844. Tortoises fulfilled important roles in the Mauritius ecosystem as browsers, grazers and seed dispersers. Many native and endemic plants have evolved with, and appear to be adapted to, the presence of tortoise grazers and seed dispersers. Round Island has been restored in recent decades by Durrell and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, with all introduced invasive species being eradicated. This has seen many severely endangered species come back from the brink of extinction. Some such as the Telfairs Skink (Leiolopisma telfairii) have grown from a mere 5,000 individuals to approximately 50,000 on Round Island today. MWF also cultivate and reintroduce endangered plants on to the island via their own nursery.

In 2008, twelve Aldabra tortoises were released onto Round Island to assist in ongoing efforts to restore the islands’ unique habitat for the benefit of many threatened Mauritian animals and plants. The number of tortoises on Round Island has since been increased through a series of translocations between 2010 and 2016, with 428 individuals now free-roaming on the island. It has been predicted that approximately 2,000 tortoises are required to have the desired impact island wide.

Blair Drummond’s “Link to the Wild” campaign is raising funds to support hands-on conservation restoration of Round island, an irreplaceable haven for some of the worlds most endangered species of birds, plants and reptiles. We are working with Dr Nik Cole and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to increase and monitor the population of introduced Aldabra Giant Tortoises on Round Island – an essential ecological tool supporting the restoration of a disappearing ecosystem.

Where your money goes

Round Island, Mauritius

Katie Macfarlane

Education Officer

An archaeologist to trade, I take a particular interest in human and animal relationships throughout history, as well as the more recent surge of human impact. In recent years I decided to turn my attention from archaeozoology to current conservation education. I love emphasizing the importance of protecting the ecosystem as a whole, hence my desire to support MWF.

Common name
Aldabra Giant Tortoise
Scientific name
Aldabrachelys gigantea
Location
Round Island, Mauritius
Lifespan
Up to 200 years
Fast facts
• Fossil records suggest giant tortoises once roamed every continent – with the exception of Australia and Antartica. They are now limited to the Galapagos islands and the Indian Ocean islands.
• Tortoises are part of an ancient group of reptiles who first appeared about 250 million years ago.
• Aldabra giant tortoises can lay up to 25 rubbery eggs at a time. Eggs are hidden in a shallow nest dug in to the ground.
Conservation status
Vulnerable