Saturday, September 15, 2012


From our house, there is always a dissonance of sounds – dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, cars, trucks, chainsaws, fighting geckos and the frenzied squawks of the fruit bats to name some of the obvious ones. It can be quite alarming to say the least but thank God for our natural ability to filter out these audio disturbances. However, even through all of that natural filtering – and believe me the locals have it down to a fine art – there is this strange, deep throated, moaning grunt that enters the air at suspicious regularity. It is a strange noise, one that is impossible to filter out. It is puzzling and disturbing and cannot be placed but for that oddly suspicious rhythm to the grunts that triggers something vaguely familiar within in you.

Of course inevitably you have to ask.

“Oh that?” the locals would say, “That is just the tortoises having sex.” At which stage it is too late to retract your question and the door is left wide open for a range of topics, most of which have nothing to do with tortoises I might add.

The Aldabra giant tortoise is one of the world’s largest. It is also the oldest living animal on the planet. According to records, Addwaitya an Aldabra tortoise attained the amazing age of 255 years before kicking the bucket. Eddwaitya was estimated to weigh in excess of 700lbs – the oldest and largest tortoise in the world! I often pondered why our Creator chose to give them years of life far beyond that of us humans, who are supposed to be the crowning glory of His creation.

Of course I have known about the Aldabra giant tortoise for many years too but my knowledge of them have always been limited to that which was disseminated by the local folk – that they humped a lot – and seldom was anything else divulged at all. In fact there is a couple just below our house – their loud grunting sounds bellowing into the air, early morning, midmorning, late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, early evening… It is certainly no secret that they copulate frequently.

(I have to add that this too would leave me pondering.)

The other day I stumbled upon an interesting read about these animals. Once, these tortoises roamed freely on all of the Seychelles islands. Many scientists believe each island had their own distinct species of these giant tortoises but that only the Aldabra tortoise survived. For seafarers, tortoises were easy game and a great way of providing fresh meat for a ship’s crew. Sailors would come ashore and just pick them up so to speak. (I have to wonder what they did when they ran into an Eddwaitya size-a-like – it would have taken some manoeuvring of sailors to get that on-board!) Inevitably the tortoises where literally “carried” to extinction and they disappeared from all of the Seychelles islands except Aldabra. It was from Aldabra that they were reintroduced to their older habitats on the other islands and today there is a hefty and healthy population of them around. It was then that I read that these old guys are only successful at coitus 2% of the time, which perfectly explained their age and frequency of copulation. Our Creator knew very well that without that they would have been extinct long before the seafarers got hold of them!

Wish you were here!


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