The giant Aldabra tortoise was once found on most islands in the Indian Ocean.
A group of conservationists and philanthropists have launched the Indian Ocean Tortoise Alliance (IOTA) an organization in an effort to protect the giant Aldabra tortoise (Geochelone gigantea) on Aldabra Atoll. The atoll, located in the western Indian Ocean, is home to the world's largest wild Aldabra tortoise population, with an estimated 100,000 tortoises.
The giant Aldabra tortoise was once found on most islands in the western Indian Ocean.
IOTA will launch in early 2019 and will provide support for research programs on the Aldabra Atoll and on islands in the broader western Indian Ocean where the massive chelonians have long since been eradicated. It will work to promote the giant tortoise as a symbol for ecotourism, education and outreach.
“Giant tortoises are the ecosystem restoration engineers of the future for small islands around the world. IOTA aims to be a key driver of re-wilding actions with Aldabra tortoises on islands across the Western Indian Ocean,” conservation scientist and IOTA advisor Dennis Hansen told the Seychelles News Agency.
“Man has been the driving force behind the extinction of these enchanting creature. What our species has undone, however, can be fixed," Thomas S. Kaplan, the founder and chairperson of IOTA told the Seychelles News Agency. "In a spirit of collaboration and camaraderie, IOTA will work to bring people and organisations together across the WIO to conserve and manage the Aldabra tortoise, along with other endangered species that can be preserved with this initiative."
The tortoises were once found on most of the islands in the Indian Ocean. They were hunted for their meat and disappeared from Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion islands until 1900, when Charles Darwin offered to pay half the atoll's lease to anyone who could ensure that the exploitation of the reptile was stopped. Aldabra Island has been managed by the Seychelles Islands Foundation since 1981 as a special reserve. It has been completely protected under the Seychelles National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act, and the giant tortoises have been monitored every month for the past 20 years.