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4 baby giant tortoises bring new conservation hope for Seychelles' Curieuse Island

Curieuse Island, Seychelles | August 31, 2016, Wednesday @ 17:58 in Environment » CONSERVATION | By: Sharon Meriton-Jean and Sharon Uranie | Views: 5457
4 baby giant tortoises bring new conservation hope for Seychelles' Curieuse Island

Although over a hundred giant tortoises roam freely on Curieuse, the discovery of four baby giant tortoises this week has brought relief and new hope for conservation on the island following the theft of 25 baby tortoises in July. (Seychelles News Agency) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) - The discovery of four baby giant tortoises on Curieuse this week has renewed hope for conservationists on the Seychelles' island that the population can recover from a recent theft.

“One of our rangers found them by coincidence wandering in the forest,” Allen Cedras, an officer of the Seychelles National Park Authority, said to SNA, adding that the baby tortoises must be barely 10 days old.

Showing off one of the babies, which barely fit into the palm of his hand, Cedras said the additions have brought about a sense of relief. The Seychelles National Park Authority and other conservation partners on Curieuse were dismayed in July following the theft of 25 out of 28 baby giant tortoises from their nursery.

“What we lost was four years of successful breeding and monitoring of this species,” said Cedras.

A former leper colony, Curieuse received the status of a National Park in 1979. Since then, the island has become a refuge for giant tortoises, which remains one of the most popular attraction for tourists and visitors.

Although it is inhabited by only a handful of rangers and volunteers, the island’s proximity to Praslin, the Seychelles’ second-most populated, island has always been a hindrance to several of its conservation projects. 

Allen Cedras showing off one of the four baby tortoises to a group of visitors on Curieuse. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

With no news of the stolen baby tortoises to date, every measure of care is being taken to protect the new additions.

“We have learnt from our mistakes and have reinforced measures in place to ensure that the babies are safe until they are fully grown to roam around in liberty on the island.”

One hundred twenty-eight land tortoises roam freely on Curieuse, making it one of the largest populations in Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. According to Cedras it is not unusual for baby tortoises to be found at random.

“We try to keep an eye out for nests which takes up to 90 days to hatch. Monitoring intensifies during the rainy season when the females tend to lay their eggs,” he said.

The four babies, which can only be seen by visitors through wire-meshed cages, adds to two other older giant tortoises that escaped the July theft.

Cedras said the two babies were probably left behind because they had an electronic tag on them which would have helped the Seychelles Police to investigate the robbery.

He adds that the Seychelles National Parks Authority, which manages the island, is considering the tagging of smaller tortoises in the future.

One of the two tortoises that escaped the theft incident in July. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

While the breeding programme aimed at increasing the tortoises’ population continues, a reward of around $390 (SCR 5000) for any information that could lead to the recovery of the 25 baby giant tortoises stolen on Curieuse still stands.

Giant tortoises in Seychelles are kept as attractions in private dwellings and tourism establishments. Due to high demand for the reptiles a baby giant tortoise can be sold for $200 to $400 by private owners.

The reptiles which can weigh more than 400 kilogrammes can live for over 80 years. 

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Tags: Curieuse, Seychelles National Park Authority, Allen Cedras, conservationists, giant tortoises

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