Having managed to survive extensive loss of habitat, this exquisite tortoise has now been virtually wiped out by the illegal pet trade. Ironically, its own outstanding beauty has been its nemesis. The name radiated comes from the detailed yellow lines covering the shell and radiating from the centre of the dark plates on the high-domed carapace.
The oldest recorded radiated tortoise, a gift from Captain Cook to the Tongan royal family in 1777, lived through two centuries until it finally died in 1965. Amazingly, aged one hundred and eighty-eight.
The diurnal radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) is highly adaptable and is as at home in the dry season as in the monsoons. It is said they “dance” in the rain, possibly to shake off the water. If frightened they emit a loud screeching noise and although a peaceful animal, if threatened, can become aggressive. With a shell containing blood vessels and nerves, the radiated tortoise is able to feel when touched.
A female will lay between 3 and 12 eggs, which is followed by an incubation period of up to 231 days. Tiny hatchlings develop their carapaces soon afterwards.
Spiny forests and tropical woodlands
What they eat
Plants, grasses, leaves and dead leaves, fruits and sometimes cacti
Habitat loss, poaching for food and the illegal wildlife and pet trade
Status: Critically Endangered
Through avaricious poaching for the pet trade, this beautiful tortoise may well be extinct within the next twenty years. It is on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered with the illegal wildlife/pet trade being cited as a major concern. Various conservation agencies are currently working to save it from extinction.
“Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius.”
Edward O. Wilson
Endangered tortoises are branded to make them unattractive to poachers