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Meet The Mauritius Saddle-Backed Giant Tortoise

The most famous endemic, but now extinct, animal to have walked the island of Mauritius is surely the Dodo.  However little is known about the country’s other unfortunately extinct species.  One such animal is the Mauritius saddle-backed giant tortoise which was one of the two tortoises endemic to the island.

dodo statue at ile aux aigrettes

The Dodo bird as we have been accustomed to picture it

What made it special? 

The Mauritius saddle-backed 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.  But what made it special? Or rather shall we say unique?

It is its shell.  A shell which is believed to have evolved due to its environment.  The Tortoise lived without threats of predators until humans arrived and started quickly exploiting them for food and oil till extinction.  The lack of predators over time is believed to have given them thinner keratin shells and softer skin compared to the commonly known tortoises of today.  And from what we’ve seen, it appeared smooth and just plainly unique. No odd shapes. No bumps. Just a beautifully carved shell.

Wait! What? How did we see one if it is extinct? Well we kind of saw one on a trip to ‘Île Aux Aigrettes’, a nearby little island off the South-eastern coast of Mauritius.

Extinct but we found it again. 

The last known probable encounter with one could have been in 1844.  But now we are happy to say that there is one remaining on ‘Île aux Aigrettes’ and this bad boy is quite selfie addict, exuberating a wonderful smile. It is a shame however that it is entirely made out of Bronze instead of its previous flesh and keratin shell glory.

Mauritius Saddle-backed Giant Tortoise, Ile aux aigrettes

The Mauritius Saddle-backed Giant Tortoise ready for a selfie

Visit ‘Île aux Aigrettes’ 

Book a visit to ‘Île aux Aigrettes’ if like us you want to take a selfie with the jolly faced tortoise or discover the lush greenery or fantastic fauna of the island by clicking on the link to their website below.


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