“Aldabra-cadabra” Jersey Zoo’s latest giant residents

Publish date: 31 Mar 2023

Jersey Zoo have welcomed four Aldabra giant tortoises; Twiggy, Mike, Helen and Biggie. They arrived at Jersey Zoo in November from Bristol Zoo and have been in quarantine until now.

Since arriving, they have settled into their brand-new enclosure, named the Tortoise Tunnel. This facility was built specifically with this species in mind and is kept at a balmy 30°C, with a humidity of 80%. It has large indoor and outdoor spaces for tortoises and visitors and even a heated pond for the animals to bathe in.

Aldabra giant tortoises can live for over 150 years, with some shells reaching over 1 metre long. Most impressively though is their hefty weight. Biggie, the largest of the four arrivals is now the heaviest animal at the zoo, weighing over 200kg and overtaking Badongo the silverback gorilla.

Twiggy, one of the two females, is also no stranger to Jersey Zoo and has lived there previously. Originally brought to the zoo by Gerald Durrell himself, she lived in Jersey between 1965 and 1975, before going to Bristol Zoo.

Twiggy the Aldabra tortoise at Jersey Zoo

Speaking on the arrival of these giant tortoises, Matt Goetz, Curator of Herpetology & Invertebrates at Jersey Zoo commented: “We are really excited to have Aldabra tortoises back at Jersey Zoo. Not only are they fascinating to look at and learn about, but they also play an important role in our conservation work around the world. We have been working with Aldabra tortoises for many years in our island restoration programme around Mauritius, helping to restore vital ecosystems that have been lost due to the extinction of native tortoises. We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors to our brand-new enclosure, so they can find out more about this impressive species.”

Aldabra giant tortoises, together with their distantly related cousins the Galapagos giant tortoise, are the largest species of tortoise in the world. Once found across the Seychelles, they were hunted for food until they became restricted to only the Aldabra atoll. They have recently been reintroduced to a few of the smaller islands in the Seychelles to help restore ecosystems.

Durrell have been working with Aldabra tortoises for over 20 years and introduced them to Ile aux Aigrettes and Round Island, two islands in Mauritius Here they play a vital role in restoring the ecosystem that was heavily affected by the extinction of their native giant tortoise species in the 18th century. There are now just over 800 Aldabra giant tortoises free roaming on Round Island, thanks to the work of Durrell and their local partners.

You can find Twiggy, Mike, Helen and Biggie in Jersey Zoo’s new Tortoise Tunnel, which is next to the Butterfly Kaleidoscope.

For more news from Jersey Zoo, please see here: Durrell.org/news

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