Nature Walks

© Guy Van Heygen 2003


Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles

Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles is founded in 1992 by a group of people among whom Ron Gerlach. It is a Non Governmental Organisation  run on a purely voluntary basis. The aims are to protect wildlife by protecting their habitats and to base conservation actions on sound scientific research, and through general and scientific publications make this information available to the public and the scientific community to ensure the success of conservation projects.                                                                                                                  NPTS was set up following a successful campaign, the Roche Caiman Bird Sanctuary, to save the east coast tidal and freshwater marsh at Roche Caiman, so important to migrating shorebirds.                                                                                                          With the discovery of the original tortoises from the granite islands of the Seychelles by dr. Justin Gerlach, Ronís son, the chair from NPTS moved from Mahť to Silhouette, where these survivors were brought together, and a breeding program was started to save these creatures for the future.

The "information center" and enclosures from NPTS


Giant Tortoise Conservation Project

 Thought to be extinct since 1840, dr. Justin Gerlach, biologist at the Cambridge University, discovered in a few hotels, not the current Aldabra tortoises, Dipsochelys dussumieri, but 2 different species endemic from the granite islands, Dipsochelys hololissa and Dipsochelys arnoldi. In total 14 tortoises were brought together on Silhouette to preserve them from extinction, and a breeding programme was started.

 The first five years of this project were unsuccessful. A lot of eggs were laid by the different females, but they all seemed to be unfertile. But on the 6th of November 2002 bad luck came to an end and the first baby giant tortoise was born.                                                                                                                                                                                                          Josy2.jpg (77870 bytes)David3.jpg (51234 bytes) Gerry the first born D. hololissa in captivity, 1 day old. (left)

  Its brother David named after the patron of the giant tortoise project David Attenborough. (right)



josephine.jpg (102615 bytes)The eggs were laid by Josephine a Dipsochelys hololissa, (left) 125 days earlier the 4th of July. The lucky father must be Adam another Dipsochelys hololissa seen he was the only male inside the enclosure she was mating with. Josephine is still very young and the only tortoise of which the exact age is known, she is born on Cerf Island the 11th of March 1986. But being kept in captivity all her life, and always being well fed she grew very fast and is more than 80 cm long.


                                   Adam mating with Eve, another D. hololissa

About Adam there is an interesting story to tell. In 1881 the English governor in Seychelles had so many tortoises around government house that he decided to mark them. Adam seems to be one of them, and has the roman number X engraved on his shield, so he must have been one of the first to be marked. Seen the size of this engraving he must have been at least about 30 years old at that moment and probably is about 150 years old, but he can be much older as we donít know what age he exactly had at that time. Begin December 2002 another happy event, this time 3 baby tortoises from a 6 eggs clutch from Betty hatched.

Betty turning.jpg (77679 bytes)Betty digging 1.jpg (68287 bytes)Betty digging.jpg (82254 bytes)






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Pict. 1 Betty a Dipsochelys arnoldi searching for an ideal nesting place.

Pict.2 Digging a hole

Pict.3 Ready to lay.

Pict.4 Laying a clutch of 6 eggs.

Pict.5 Digging out the eggs

Pict.6 The eggs in the incubator

Ron Gerlach interviewed by the German TV crew from SWR about the first Seychelles giant tortoises born in captivity.


The Seychelles Terrapin Conservation Project

The remove to Silhouette gave NPTS the opportunity to start this project. The agreement from the Ministry of Environment made it possible to collect 9 terrapins; 4 Pelusios castanoides and 5 Pelusios subniger. The first results came from P.subniger parietalis  in March 2000 with 1 hatchling. In 2002 with 12 hatchlings, a record from 100% was established. 5 terrapins were fitted with small radio tags and set out in the Grand Barbe marsh to study their ecology. There is good hope that the  P.castanoides intergularis will follow the P. subniger example as they laid their first eggs on land (Dec. '02)

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six months old P. subniger                 The breeding tanks                  Jules feeding the terrapins