The giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys or Dipsochelys) of the Indian Ocean Islands have been in decline since the first human settlement of the islands. They retain only a single natural population on Aldabra Atoll (and possibly Ile aux Cerfs, where tortoises are descendants of a mixture of indigenous and imported animals). Several additional wild populations are known, resulting from reintroductions to the historic range and introductions outside of that range. The historical distribution of tortoises in Seychelles is summarized, with reliable tortoise records from only 4 coralline islands and 23 granitic islands and the status of all the wild populations reviewed. This includes the first census of the Frégate Island population. In the granitic islands, only 9 islands support tortoises today and the wild population of these islands is estimated at 500–550 adults. In the coralline islands, tortoises are now present on 11 islands, with a total population of over 100,000 (almost all on Aldabra). Climate change impacts over the next 100 yrs are expected to be severe in low-lying areas of the Seychelles Islands attributable to sea-level rise and storm impacts on coastal erosion. These are projected to result in the loss of many populations and significant declines in the Aldabra population. As a result, the species should be regarded as Vulnerable by IUCN Red List Threat Criteria. Reintroduction to more of the high granitic islands could offset some of these projected declines, and it is recommended that such reintroductions be included in future conservation programs to restore ecosystem function.
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Vol. 12 • No. 1