Giant Tortoises Return Home, 600 Years Later

Feb 22, 2024

Centuries ago, Madagascar, an island located off East Africa's coast, was home to huge tortoises. These creatures had been living there for 15 million years but were gone by the 1500s due to hunting by humans.

These tortoises can weigh almost 800 pounds and are very good at swimming. Over time, they moved to nearby islands like the Seychelles and Aldabra. On these islands, they evolved into a new kind of tortoise. 

In 2018, a project began to bring these evolved tortoises back to Madagascar. This is based on a recent report from The Conversation. It is the first time in 600 years that these large tortoises have been brought back, a team of biologists wrote.

The tortoises were important for the environment. They helped keep the land in balance. But a lot of this area has been burned by people. Now, ecologists want to rebuild this land. They hope that bringing back hundreds of giant tortoises will help. The tortoises eat plants that can catch fire easily and help fires spread.

Baby tortoises are taken by scientists to a nursery in Anjajavy. There, they are looked after until they can live on their own in the wild. 

The biologists told The Conversation that they hope the tortoises move beyond the Anjajavy reserve. This way they would help regrow a lot of areas in Madagascar.

Thought Question: Think about your local ecosystem. What are the most important non-human species in the area in which you live, and how do they affect the environment?

GIF courtesy @headlikeanorange on GIPHY

What was the author’s main point in the fourth paragraph? (Common Core RI.5.2; RI.6.2)
a. Scientists are working on advanced technologies to protect Madagascar's forests from wildfires.
b. The government of Madagascar is planning to turn the entire island into a nature reserve to protect endangered species.
c. The reintroduction of giant tortoises is an important step in restoring Madagascar's damaged lands.
d. Local communities in Madagascar are being educated on the importance of conservation efforts to make sure tortoises survive in the future.
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