August 14, 2014
A Piece of Paradise
- as seen by -Kelvin Alvarez
Seychelles is an island nation found in the Indian Ocean, just north of Madagascar and 200 miles off the coast of Africa. It is the home of true giants. Specifically, Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea,) one of the largest species of tortoise in the world with weights reaching close to 600 pounds. These animals are, simply put, breathtaking.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo has given two of its residents, Aldabra tortoises Rocket and Abdul, a piece of paradise. Located at Zoo Center, their space simulates a proximity of their natural environment in the Seychelles with its substrate, rock work, and greenery.
Aldabra tortoises can live to a ripe old age of well over 100 years and spend most of their time gorging on foliage. The Bronx Zoo’s Rocket and Abdul are in their 80’s, and are primarily herbivorous. They feed on grasses, plants, and leaves that are all implemented in their new exhibit along with their diet of mixed greens, zucchini, carrots, and apples.
Their substantial exhibit includes a basin where the tortoises can soak and escape the torrid summer sun. Two huge logs provide shelter on a rainy day and radiant heat on chilly mornings.
What is it like to work with Aldabra giant tortoises? For me, it is gratifying taking care of Rocket and Abdul. It is never monotonous. Like all animals in this world, their personalities are diverse. Rocket is more of a laid-back tortoise with his nonchalant demeanor. Abdul is an attention seeker, following keepers as we work, and looking forward to a neck scratch or a treat.