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Aldabrachelys arnoldi, 028

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Aldabrachelys arnoldi (Bour 1982) –
Arnold’s Giant Tortoise

Justin Gerlach1

1133 Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge CB1 7BX, United Kingdom [[email protected]]


Summary. – Arnold’s giant tortoise, Aldabrachelys arnoldi (= Dipsochelys arnoldi) (Family Testudinidae), from the granitic Seychelles, is a controversial species possibly distinct from the Aldabra giant tortoise, A. gigantea (= D. dussumieri of some authors). The species is a morphologically distinctive morphotype, but has so far not been genetically distinguishable from the Aldabra tortoise, and is considered synonymous with that species by many researchers. Captive reared juveniles suggest that there may be a genetic basis for the morphotype and more detailed genetic work is needed to elucidate these relationships. The species is the only living saddle-backed tortoise in the Seychelles islands. It was apparently extirpated from the wild in the 1800s and believed to be extinct until recently purportedly rediscovered in captivity. The current population of this morphotype is 23 adults, including 18 captive adult males on Mahé Island, 5 adults recently introduced to Silhouette Island, and one free-ranging female on Cousine Island. Successful captive breeding has produced 138 juveniles to date.

Distribution. – Seychelles. Restricted to the granitic islands, but original distribution unknown. Currently occurs as a small introduced population on Silhouette, a single female on Cousine, and several males in non-breeding captive groups on Mahé.

Synonymy. – Dipsochelys arnoldiBour 1982, Aldabrachelys arnoldi.

Subspecies. – None.

Status. – IUCN 2008 Red List: Not Evaluated (proposed listing: Extinct in the Wild, EW); CITES: Appendix II (as Testudinidae spp.).


Gerlach, J. 2009. Aldabrachelys arnoldi (Bour 1982) – Arnold’s giant tortoise. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 028.1-028.5, doi:10.3854/crm.5.028.arnoldi.v1.2009, //iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt/.

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Adult male Aldabrachelys arnoldi, Seychelles.
Photo by John Pemberton.



Distribution of Aldabrachelys arnoldi in the Seychelles islands, east of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Red points = occurrence records of introduced populations based on author’s data; green shading = distributions of introduced populations based on author’s data. Pink points = possible locations of extirpated populations; olive shading = possible areas of extirpated distribution.