Aldabra

Aldabra giant tortoise (<i>Geochelone gigantea</i>) walking on the beach, Cousine ... rel=
Aldabra giant tortoise (Geochelone gigantea) walking on the beach, Cousine Island, Seychelles. Vulnerable, it is endemic to the islands of Aldabra and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, populations have also been introduced to Mauritius and Reunion.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Home to world’s largest population of giant tortoises

What and where
Aldabra is a raised coral atoll in the Indian Ocean belonging to the Aldabra Group in the Outer Islands District of the Seychelles. It is a classic coral atoll, 34 km long, 14.5 km wide, up to 8 m above sea level, and has a land area of 155.4 km². The lagoon measures 224 km², of which roughly two thirds is dry during low tide. The atoll is comprised of 4 large coral islands which enclose a shallow lagoon. They are:

• South Island or Grand Terre (116.1 km²)
• Malabar or Middle Island (26.8 km²)
• Polymnieli or Polymnie (4.75 km²)
• Picard or West Island (9.4 km²)

The name Aldabra came from early Arabian visitors. Most of the land surface comprises ancient coral reef (about 125,000 years old) now raised above sea-level, the rest being even older reef limestone.

The atoll was designated a strict nature reserve on 17 February 1976 under the Protection and Preservation of Wild Life Ordinance, 1970 (BIOT) and a special reserve by Designation of Special Reserve (Aldabra) Order, 1981. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982.

Why
Due to difficulties of access and the atoll's isolation, Aldabra has been largely protected from human influence. The atoll is home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises (Dipsochelus gigantea), numbering some 152,000 individuals. Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) breed here. Also found here are numerous bird species, including the white-throated rail.

Aldabra has been described as 'one of the wonders of the world' by Sir David Attenborough as its isolation in a remote area of the Indian Ocean, combined with an inhospitable terrestrial environment, has helped preserve it in a relatively pristine state. The atoll is the 2nd largest in the world after Kiritimati.

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