Common Name: Aldabra Tortoise
Scientific Name: Dipsochelys Dussumieri
Current Size: 4"
Average Adult Size: 36-48" and 350-550 Pounds
Area of Origin: Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles Islands
Description: Black shell color from birth to adult size. The skin is black, which fades to a gray color with time and age. These massive, round tortoises are second in size only to the Galapagos tortoises. Some think that the Aldabras actually hold the record (800 pounds), but that the Galops average slightly larger.
Habitat: Naturally these tortoises exist in a wide variety of habitats, from grassland to jungle, almost all with moderate to high humidity and moderate temperatures. They can handle variable amounts of humidity in captivity once grown, but babies should be kept humid to ensure proper smooth growth. They do not hibernate, but will go through a winter slow down period during cooler weather and shortened daylengths. As adults, they can safely handle body temperatures as low as 45 degrees at night as long as they are able to heat up into the 70's during the day. Summer highs up to 120 degrees can be tolerated as long as there is a cooler, shaded retreat the tortoise can get into. Moisture is not a problem in warmer temperatures (a cool mud hole on a hot day), but in cooler weather and on cold nights, the tortoises should be kept dry.
Diet: This tortoise is naturally a grazer, and will wander about munching on grasses, broadleaf plants and fallen fruit the majority of its natural life. They are known to eat meat in the wild, and have been seen eating dead animal carcasses. In captivity, Aldabras tortoises will eat almost anything such as leafy weeds and clover (dandelions are a favorite), fruit, vegetables and they love Mazuri tortoise diet. They are also content just eating grass, as long as they don't run out.
Adult Behavior: Adult Aldabra tortoises are interactive and curious tortoises once they are past a nervous baby stage that lasts for a few years. They are usually unaggressive towards eachother and can usually be kept long term in mixed-sex groups. They are not damaging to their environment, rarely digging holes or burrows or pushing against cage furniture. Most Aldabras will follow their keepers looking for food once they are comfortable in their environments
Our Current Care: During cooler weather or indoors, these tortoises are kept indoors on a cypress and/or coco coir substrate with a humid hidebox that they can get into at night. We raise them in cheap, simple plastic tubs that can be purchased at WalMart or Target, generally 3 to 4 square feet in size for babies. Temperatures in the room fluctuate between 75 at night up to 85 during the day, but we keep the hidebox heated to around 80-85 at night with a heat pad beind it, or a red bulb placed overhead.
Diet consists of spring mix greens with many other leafy greens, fruit and veggies offered in rotation to that (mulberry, bell pepper, apple, pear, melon, mango, papaya, endive, grape leaves, hibiscus leaves, and diced cactus pads). We like to also add moistened Mazuri tortoise diet as well as ZooMed's Gourmet Tortoise Food a few times a week, usually mixed and mashed into the leafy greens. The addition of the commercial diets take care of most or all of the supplementation needs, or you can sprinkle the food lightly with a calcium supplement 2 or 3 times a week and a multivitamin supplement 1-2 times a week. We also throw a pinch of our herbal hay on top of whatever they are eating almost daily, which adds variety and flavor and scent to everything.
The tortoises are removed from their enclosure and soaked in a separate 1/4" deep pan of warm water daily or almost daily for 30 minutes each time. We don't generally use water dishes in the enclosures because of the risk of drowning (yes, we have lost babies to drowning when they flipped over in 1/4" of water).
Being a tropical species, they don't need intense lighting, but they need lights on during the day and off at night to maintain a normal day/night cycle. We use full spectrum UVB lights, which we suggest for the growth of pretty, healthy tortoises, and use a simple spot bulb or ceramic heat emitter for heat in a small part of the enclosure to give them a "hot spot" around 90-95 degrees that they can get into if they want to warm up.
While these tortoises prefer higher humidity levels (60-90%), we don't use the "closed chamber" method (keeping airflow very restricted to increase humidity to the point that clouds form in the enclosure). It is very risky if/when temperatures get below about 80, and mold, shell rot, and respiratory problems become a lot more common in those conditions. We keep them open top in the warm area, and enclosed, warm and humid within the hide (like they would be in the wild). They are free to choose the conditions, temperatures, and humidity levels they want within that setup.