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Andre, A. A. , Reintroduction of giant tortoises on rodrigues island, indian ocean. Paper presented at Turtle Survival Alliance 2007 Annual Meeting. 
Added by: Admin (13 Dec 2008 16:50:04 UTC)
Resource type: Proceedings Article
BibTeX citation key: Andre2007
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Categories: General
Keywords: Aldabrachelys gigantea, Astrochelys, Astrochelys radiata, Geochelone, Habitat = habitat, Pazifik = Pacific, Schildkröten = turtles + tortoises, Testudinidae
Creators: Andre
Collection: Turtle Survival Alliance 2007 Annual Meeting
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Testudinidae “There are on this island such a multitude of those tortoises in groups of two or three thousand that you can make more than one hundred strides on their shells without your feet treading the ground.” Francois Leguat (1693): Over the next century (1732-1771) the French East India Company, which had control over Rodrigues, removed not less than 280,000 tortoises. The last record of a wild Rodrigues Island tortoise was noted by Philibert Maragon in 1794, and the last captive specimen died in Mauritius in 1829. Such was the rapid decline to extinction of two sympatric, endemic species of Indian Ocean tortoises: Cylindraspis vosmeari and Cylindrapis peltastes. In response to this sad story of loss to both science and humanity, Owen Griffiths, a trained zoologist and committed environmentalist, has initiated an ambitious project aiming at giving back to Rodrigues its past natural heritage – the reintroduction of giant tortoises into a reforested nature reserve on the island. In February 2005, the new autonomous local government of Rodrigues approved the lease of initial18 hectares for the establishment of the Francois Leguat Tortoise Reserve on the limestone plains of the Island’s southwest. Subsequently, 80,000 endemic and native Rodrigues plants (representing 34 species) have been re-established on the site, and 35,000 more will be planted in 2007, under the supervision of the Rodrigues branch of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. The objective is to reestablish the original lowland savannah forest ecosystem described by Francois Leguat in the 17th Century. In September 2006, the Tortoise Reserve’s administrative buildings were completed, comprising an administrative block, tortoise nursery and manager’s lodge. In October 2006, a total of 294 Aldabra giant tortoises (Dipsochelys dussimeri =Geochelone gigantea) were introduced at the site as ecological proxies for the extinct Cylindraspis vosmeari. The contingent of tortoises is composed of 288 juveniles, now being reared in a specially designed tortoise nursery, and a further 6 adult tortoises roaming in the restored savanna ecosystem. In 2007 an additional 50 adult tortoises and 150 juveniles will be introduced on the site, along with a small group of Madagascar radiated tortoises (Geochelone=Astrochelys radiata), which are intended to provide an analog to the smaller of the two extinct endemic forms (Cylindrapis peltastes). It is hoped that within ten-years 1000 tortoises will roam and graze on the site for the pleasure of visitors and in support of public environmental education. The giant tortoises released on Rodrigues all derive from a tortoise breeding project initiated by Owen Griffiths on Mauritius some twenty years ago at his La Vanille Reserve des Mascareignes. This breeding group comprises direct descendents of “Darwin Tortoises”. In the 1880s, to ensure that the Aldabra tortoises did not suffer the same fate as the endemic tortoises of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues, Charles Darwin and a group of influential scientists successfully petitioned for the translocation of some Aldabra tortoises to Mauritius. This task was accomplished under the direction of then Governor of Mauritius, Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon. In addition to its eroded, basaltic uplands, Rodrigues has over 2000 hectares of limestone plains, which badly need native ecosystem restoration and protection. In addition, the limestone area contains an abundance of caves and sinkholes that have preserved fossils and sub-fossils of many of the islands extinct biological treasures. It is anticipated that the Francois Leguat Tortoise Reserve will serve as a model for further native ecosystem restoration on Rodrigues. When fully developed this new facility will also incorporate the following additional resources: 1. Museum focused on the local karst limestone geology and associated caves of southwest Rodrigues, including exhibits of the bones of tortoises and other extinct fauna (e.g. the flightless, Dodo-related Rodrigues Solitaire) extracted from these nearby cave deposits. 2. Documentation Centre holding all published materials on Rodrigues 3. Human Settlement History Museum depicting the cultural heritage of the island. 4. Laboratory offering technical facilities to students.
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