Saddled-backed tortoise of Mauritius

The Dodo is often associated to Mauritius.  It is an endemic but sadly extinct bird that once walked the island of Mauritius.  Numerous other species faced a similar fate to the Dodo of which little is known.  One such animal is the Mauritius saddle-backed giant tortoise.  One of the two endemic tortoises of Mauritius.

dodo statue at ile aux aigrettes
The Dodo bird as we have been accustomed to picture it © ISL AVENUE

What Made It Special? 

Firstly the Mauritius saddle-backed giant tortoise had quite a long neck making it more likely to stroll around, feeding on bushes or small lingering trees rather than grazing on grass.  It is however, its shell that made it unique but also unfortunately vulnerable.

The shell is believed to have been fairly thin in thickness.  The tortoise evolved and lived without the threat of predators on the island until the first humans arrived.  They were quickly exploited for food and oil until assumed extinction around the 1700’s.

A Miraculous Apparition  

According to the book, The Lost Land Of The Dodo, a few of the tortoises survived further and were spotted in 1844 during the Lloyd expedition to Round island off the northern coast of Mauritius.  In 1870 it came to the light that Mauritius’ then governor, Sir Henry Barkly, was informed of a fascinating fact by Hon. William Kerr, who was part of the 1844 expedition.

Mr William stated that a fellow expedition man by the name of Mr Corby captured a female tortoise during the expedition which was brought back into Mauritius.  It went on to produce offsprings which were given to his acquaintance.  This gave hope for the survival of the species but sadly numerous attempts at locating the offsprings or possible further offsprings were in vain.

It Continues To Survive On Iles Aux Aigrettes

No the species wasn’t discovered again.  But amidst the forest of Ile aux Aigrettes, a tiny island off the south east coast of Mauritius, a bronze mock up of the tortoise stands in memory of the believed extinct species.  The bronze depicts the tortoises’s long neck extending from its thin and smooth open ended shell.  We must say it got quite a cute and happy face.

Mauritius Saddle-backed Giant Tortoise, Ile aux aigrettes
The Mauritius Saddle-backed Giant Tortoise ready for a selfie

Visit ‘Île aux Aigrettes’ 

Ile aux Aigrettes is a nature reserve protected by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.  They have been successful over years in boosting the flora and fauna of the island and welcome people to visit the island.  The island is accessible by boat and visits can be booked through the MWF’s website or by calling them.  It is also a great place to discover the extinct species of the island of Mauritius.