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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

giant Aldabra tortoise goes missing !!

Do you know what is -  :  Herpetology ??


Seychelles   is an archipelagic island country in the Indian Ocean at the eastern edge of the Somali Sea. The country consists of 115 islands. Its capital and largest city, Victoria, lies 1,500 kilometres (932 mi) east of mainland Africa. It  has the smallest population of any sovereign African country.  It is a top sought after holiday destination in the Indian Ocean, being a fantasy escape for travellers across the globe.  Although the vicious pandemic has dwindled travel, the destination maintains its allure.  It has since reopened to commercial flights from Aug 2020 and the local tourism industry is reported thriving well.    

Underwriters evaluate the risk and the premium is based on exposure, the probable chance of occurrence, frequency and severity.  Burglary insurance provides indemnity for loss or damage to property insured from the premises insured directly resultant from acts of burglary. From an Insurance angle, it is not the value of the goods that alone that matters.  Goods that can be sold easily in retail and grey markets [eg. Cigarette packs / batteries] are bad risks as compared to those which cannot be sold easily [eg. Special medicines].  Smaller items with high value [eg.,diamond rings] are worser risk than bulky items like machinery. Again those who have ready market in retail [eg mobile phones] are  bad risks as compared to those which cannot be sold so easily [say precision machinery].  In contrast, exhibition items / objects with antique value are higher risks unless proper security arrangements are in place. .. .. but incidences can often beat the logic and may not follow any pattern !! – or else how would you explain this ‘special property’ that was burgled in the outskirts of Chennai.   

Aldabra is the world's second-largest coral atoll. It is situated in the Aldabra Group of islands in the Indian Ocean that are part of the Outer Islands of the Seychelles.  Admiral W. J. L. Wharton of the British Navy landed in Aldabra in 1878 to conduct hydrographic surveys of the islands  As Aldabra had no water resources, large rectangular-shaped water storage structures were built adjoining each of the houses. A two-roomed jail was also built in the village, a remnant of which is still seen at Aldabra.   This is no post on its history or settlement but on .. .. ‘tortoise’ – native to this island. The Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea), from the islands of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles, is one of the largest tortoises in the world.  Historically, giant tortoises were found on many of the western Indian Ocean islands, as well as Madagascar, and the fossil record indicates giant tortoises once occurred on every continent and many islands with the exception of Australia and Antarctica.  Many of the Indian Ocean species were thought to be driven to extinction by over-exploitation by European sailors, and they were all seemingly extinct by 1840 with the exception of the Aldabran giant tortoise on the island atoll of Aldabra.   

Primarily herbivores, Aldabra giant tortoises eat grasses, leaves, and woody plant stems. In captivity, Aldabra giant tortoises are known to consume fruits such as apples and bananas, as well as compressed vegetable pellets. The Aldabra tortoise has two main varieties of shells. Specimens living in habitats with food available primarily on the ground have more dome-shaped shells with the front extending downward over the neck. Those living in an environment with food available higher above the ground have more flattened top shells with the front raised to allow the neck to extend upward freely.

Herpetology (from Greek herpetón, meaning "reptile" or "creeping animal") is the branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians (including frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians (gymnophiona)) and reptiles (including snakes, lizards, amphisbaenids, turtles, terrapins, tortoises, crocodilians, and the tuataras).  The definition of herpetology can be more precisely stated as the study of ectothermic (cold-blooded) tetrapods. Under this definition "herps" (or sometimes "herptiles" or "herpetofauna") exclude fish.  

On the way to Mahabalipuram on ECR is the Crocodile Park.  Rom and Zai Whitaker established the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in 1976 with the specific goal of securing breeding populations of the three species of Indian crocodile: the mugger (Crocodylus palustris), the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and the rarest of all, the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). The Croc Bank was originally designed to be a living genetic repository of crocodiles for safekeeping, to protect and multiply until such time when they could be returned to restock their original wild habitats.   

The news is  :  A giant Aldabra, one of the largest tortoise species in the world, is missing from the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology at Vadanemmeli near Mamallapuram, police said. It is worth more than  Rs.15 lakh in the international wildlife market, police said. Another three tortoises of the species remain in the two-foot tall enclosure. A case was registered. Mamallapuram inspector Vadivel Murugan said, “We have collected the call details and collected the CCTV camera footage from the farm to trace the culprit.”

Police said the private facility, run by Romulus Whitaker at Vadanemmeli, 47km south of Chennai, on East Coast Road, is under surveillance, with outsiders having least access to the place, They suspect that the ‘theft’ might have carried out by insiders. Police said staff at the facility noticed the tortoise missing while feeding the others vegetables and green leaves. They alerted the farm in-charge who informed police. The facility where mainly crocodiles are bred, has four exotic Aldabras, mostly found on the Aldabra atoll in the Seychelles. They were purchased from Indonesia more than two decades ago.

An expert told police that these tortoises could grow up to 1.5 meters in length and weigh up to 225 kg. The neck is long, even for its great size, which helps the animal exploit tree branches up to a metre from the ground as a food source. They have been known to have a lifespan of 150 to 180 years. Of late, members of the species have become sought after by collectors of wildlife and cost anything between $1,000 (Rs 73,544) and $20,500 (more than Rs 15lakh) depending on the size.   Large tortoises are among the longest-lived animals. Some individual Aldabra giant tortoises are thought to be over 200 years of age, but this is difficult to verify because they tend to outlive their human observers. Adwaita was reputedly one of four brought by British seamen from the Seychelles Islands as gifts to Robert Clive of the British East India Company in the 18th century, and came to Calcutta Zoo in 1875. At his death in March 2006 at the Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) Zoo in India, Adwaita is reputed to have reached the longest ever measured lifespan of 255 years (birth year 1750).

Interesting ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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