Asia - Pacific

Allure of Changuu island: Giant Aldabra Tortoises

Once home to slave traders, Zanzibar's Changuu island is among few pockets where giant tortoises live

Sibel Uğurlu   | 13.08.2019
Allure of Changuu island: Giant Aldabra Tortoises Tourists pose for a photo with a giant tortoise at Changuu Island in Zanzibar, Tanzania on August 10, 2019. The island hosts a population of Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea), one of the largest tortoises in the world. ( Recep Bilek - Anadolu Agency )


Also known as prison island, Tanzania's Changuu island not only attracts tourists’ attention for its beautiful scenery but also for its giant Aldabra tortoises.

Just five kilometers (3 miles) away from Zanzibar, the exotic Changuu island is among the few habitats in the world where the giant tortoises live.

They are roughly 122 centimeters (48 inches) in length with an average weight of 250 kg (550 pounds). They are known to be among the world's longest-lived animals, with some thought to be over 200 years of age. On Changuu island, their ages are written on their shells. 

From desolate island to tourist hotspot

The once uninhabited island was sold in the 1860s to slave traders by the first sultan of Zanzibar, Majid bin Zaid.

In 1893, it was sold to a British general who planned to build a prison on the island. However, it was never been used as prison, instead to be used as a hospital and quarantine area.

In 1919, the British governor of Seychelles sent four Aldabra giant tortoises to Changuu as a gift. By the 1950s, the tortoise population on Changuu rose over 200.

Now, tourists flock to Changuu to see the giant Aldabra tortoises first hand.

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