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Aldabras - need companionship or not?

Discussion in 'Aldabra tortoises' started by ben awes, Apr 7, 2015.

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  1. ben awes

    ben awes Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I'd like to take a poll - a simple question: do you think Aldabras do better with companionship or not?
  2. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    In my opinion, hatchlings do better in groups. It's the competition for the food. "I'd better eat this before that other guy gets it."

    Aldabran tortoises are very mild and don't fight at all. I've had two males together for 15 years and they get along just great. But do they 'need' each other? No, I think they would each do just fine alone. One doesn't follow the other outside. They each go their own way, and when in their shed, there's no pushing or shoving. They each settle into a corner and just sleep.
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  3. juli11

    juli11 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I never keeps them but I hear that giant tortoises only breed if they're in groups don't know if that's right maybe aldabraman will know..
  4. Jemo

    Jemo Active Member 5 Year Member

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    P1070808.JPG DSC_0115.JPG We just came back from a spectacular Expedition to Aldabra Homeland Atoll to study the tortoises.
    This question was also one we wanted to observe.

    Here on Aldabra Islands we mostly found the aldabran tortoises gathering on special places to rest and sleep together, in the Mangrove also than in the scrubby forests. NOT only because of the shade!

    They are very social animals , in my opinion is you should never keep them alone. Where they live in wild, there are plenty of them gathered in very small places.

    Jemo
  5. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member Tortoise Club

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    @ALDABRAMAN can help here.
    I remember him (Greg) having a few spats between a couple males, but it might only be because he has males and females.
    Now, is this because you want an excuse to get more? Cuz, we will give you that excuse if needed:D
    ALDABRAMAN likes this.
  6. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    We all known that they tend to get along well in groups, but I don't know how you could definitively answer whether they do "better" in groups or alone. There are just too many variables.

    I do think it would be easier to monitor the health of an animal housed individually. Food and water intake would be much easier to track.
  7. Jemo

    Jemo Active Member 5 Year Member

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    I think it is not the question what is "easier" for us,

    but what is more natural to the animal we force to live in a small space in an unnatural Environment.
  8. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Right. And because of that small, unnatural space, is it "better" to keep them alone or in groups?

    Did you never see a lone tortoise off to the side while there studying wild ones? Were they always together in groups? Can you definitively say why they were clustered in groups? Was it shade, breeding opportunities? Is it this way in the wild at all times, or did you happen to go in a certain season when they tend to cluster more for one reason or another? Have there been any comparative studies done with clutchmates raised concurrently both alone and in groups, but with all other variables as identical as possible, to see which ones fair better?
  9. ALDABRAMAN

    ALDABRAMAN KEEPER AT HEART 5 Year Member

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    ~ I can for sure say that ours do very well in large groups, however we also notice certain ones that prefer to be away from the group and less social!

    DSCN1348.JPG
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  10. ben awes

    ben awes Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I just can't help but believe that they benefit somehow from companionship. Just the fact alone that there are like 150,000 on the atoll - they wouldn't populate like that if they weren't better off in groups - right? Or am I just making this up?

    Of course I want another one but really I want what's best for my guy. If he is no worse off being alone then my desire is just that, but if he would benefit from companionship, then I would want to know. That they seem to stick together in the wild is pretty persuasive.
  11. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Well with a lack of any evidence, I have to conclude you are making it up. These are reptiles and they follow through with a hormonal urge to breed. That they are stuck on an island with nowhere else to go is not relevant. This is the same argument used for pancake tortoises. They congregate in their "rock islands" because there is no other cover and lots of predators in the "sea" of land around the Kopjes. Do they "need" or "benefit" from company, or are they in close proximity due to circumstance.

    Mind you, I am not saying they don't "benefit" from company, I am saying I see no definitive evidence one way or the other. Not enough people have them to draw conclusions. I know of several housed alone that are healthy and doing just fine. I also know of several groups , like Aldabraman's, that are housed together and seem do just fine.

    Here is a bit of anecdotal evidence: Most zoos and keepers with groups get very little reproduction out of their groups. If they do get babies, they are usually out of only one or two females, and it can be sporadic, skipping years sometimes. Even Aldabraman doesn't get fertile eggs from all of his females. Is it because of the stress of living with other tortoises? Something else? I don't know and have not found anyone else who does.

    The way to test this would be to take clutch mates and raise a few of them alone, and a few of them in groups and chart the results over 20 years or more. Say for example a clutch of 12. Raise 3 individually, 3 as a group and 6 as a group. Do this with 6 clutches of 12 and then we would start to get a good idea of the answer to this question.
  12. Jemo

    Jemo Active Member 5 Year Member

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    @Tom
    believe me, we are so many scientists and keepers that want to kow, why it is so difficult to breed Aldabras!
    And want to do it better.
    When somebody will find the answer, we all will hear about it!

    I myself just answered this simple question with my personal experience as keeper and in studying the animals in the only natural Habitat as well as in several semi-wild Groups on easily accesible inner seychelles Islands.

    Of course we also see individuals resting alone, but the majority gathers for resting and sleeping together in Homeland AND in our own Group.
    So I simply gave my personal OPINION that I always would adwice to Keep them in a Group as big as affordable. (this is the main Problem!!) This is not a scientific Statement.

    @ben awes
    the actual Population on Aldabra Atoll 2015 is at about 100.000 individuals according to the Seychelles Island Foundation SIF.

    Jemo
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  13. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Jemo,

    Your experience with the wild ones is invaluable and appreciated. Great info and good to know. I just don't know if it is enough info to definitively answer the question of whether they do better alone or in groups.

    I have a theory about the lack of breeding success with the giants. I think relatively small enclosures and lack of hills in the enclosures are factors based on what I've seen out in the world. Purely an anecdotal guess here and just for the sake of conversation.
  14. ben awes

    ben awes Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Tom, I really appreciate your comments and I tend to agree. I don't think, however, that the fact that they live together in groups is not evidence - it certainly is. Also I think it is strange to me that you would describe their natural habitat as "stuck on an island together with no where else to go" ? It's their natural habitat, which by definition is where they exist most naturally - and often in groups it appears.

    Does not prove that they do better in groups I guess, but you'd have to argue that they certainly don't do worse. The idea of hills is interesting. I've got no opinion but hills, even in captivity, would separate tortoises at least visually for periods of time.

    Love this dialogue - fascinating!
  15. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    What I mean is finding them grouped together in the wild is not evidence that they somehow fare better or are healthier in groups, versus being housed alone in captivity.
  16. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I do have a way of "colorfully" wording things sometimes, don't I? :)

    What I mean is that if 100,000 giant tortoises live on an island, then I would expect to find them grouped together as there is not much room 9relatively speaking) to spread out. If you took that same 100,000 and somehow magically moved them all to Florida and set them down in about the same proximity as they were on their island, do you think they would stay that close together and in groups, or do you think they would disperse and thin themselves out over a greater area if given the choice? In other words, are they hanging out because of limited space, or are they making a social choice to hang out?

    If Aldabraman removed the fences to his enclosure, would his tortoise all stay together in that general area? Would they wander off somewhere else but stay together as a herd? Would they randomly wander off in multiple directions without regard for their current enclosure-mates?

    My adult sulcatas frequently bask, eat and sleep together. Do they like each other? Or do they accept that they are stuck together and accept their social hierarchy? Is there even a social hierarchy, or is it a few tortoises coincidentally co-existing in the same 7000 sq. ft. enclosure? When I put them outside the wall of their enclosure and give them the run of the entire 5 acre ranch, they each boogie off in their own direction with not so much as a look back to see if any other tortoise is headed in their direction.
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  17. ben awes

    ben awes Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Thanks Tom, again, I appreciate your insights - and I'm not trying to be argumentative! Just interested!

    I'm no scientist, or biologist, or environmental observist, or anyting, but I do understand your point I think, and you very well might be spot on, but I guess the logic does not seem clear to me. They did not evolve anywhere except on these islands so suggesting that the island environment is where they happen to find themselves does not make sense to me. Close quarters are part of the deal. There is nothing to suggest that company it is NOT an important part of their evolution just from observation. If they do not do well in groups then their numbers would dwindle. Letting them loose on the mainland does not seem relevant because they would have no understanding of a boundless environment - of course they would wander off, but that does not mean that wandering off would be good for them or what they want. I do think your own anecdotal evidence that your sulcatas bask, eat, and sleep together in a 7000 sf enclosure does mean something. Why would they not spread out more? 7000 sf is a pretty big area for them to find each other every night. It's not like they say to themselves, well, we've only got 7000sf, might as well stick together!

    I might be asking the question from the wrong end. Not "do they do better with companionship?" , but "do they do worse alone?" Is there any evidence of that? I don't know. Maybe those questions are the same.

    On a side note, i wonder if aldabraman has had trouble with his torts feet? His enclosure is completely flat and soft, no rocks or hard surfaces that I can see. Seems to be working for him just fine?
  18. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Ben, This forum is for tortoise discussion and that is just what we are doing. I think its great. You don't sound argumentative at all and you explain your points of discussion well. Animal behavior is my career, profession and passion, so I am loving this discussion and all the different points of view.

    On with the conversation...
    That they evolved on the island is not relevant to my point. My point is actually more of a question than a point. Are they in close proximity because: A. There are a lot of them and no where else to go? B. That is where the best living/eating spaces tend to be? C. They want each others company? D. Some combination of the above? If they would disperse when given the space and choice to do so, then that is a telling thing to me.

    Another potential point: Because they are not "repelled" by proximity with each other, does not necessarily mean the "benefit" from proximity with each other.

    About my sulcatas hanging out: They all wander up and down the whole thing independently and with no regard for each other. The eat together because that is where the food is. They bask together in this one particular spot on cooler days because it is the warmest spot in their enclosure and its where a wall meets the ground and the sun reflects off the wall. They avoid that communal basking spot on hot days. They sleep together because there is only one 4x8' night box and they seek out the same shelter and warmth for night time. From my perspective, they only tolerate the presence of each other, but gain no benefit from each other. Daisy lived alone most of her life and was fine. She is now integrated into this group and I see no difference in her level of "thrivation". (See what I did there? Made up a new word!)

    I will concede that Aldabrans might be different than sulcatas in this respect, but its fun discussing it anyway!

    About your question of whether or not they do worse alone? I have only seen a few living alone, but all seemed fine and healthy to me. They seemed as healthy as the ones living in groups in my cursory examinations. This is a question for anyone out there with a single Aldabra: How is your tortoise doing?
  19. Jemo

    Jemo Active Member 5 Year Member

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    Response A:
    They did not evelope on Aldabra. Every 10.000 thousends of years they got washed away and extinct there because the Island "sunk".

    Repopulation from somewhere else, probably Madagascar, but that is not scientifically prooved.

    They are very good swimmers/floaters.

    They often do this on Aldabra, even it is risky, Floating out of the lagoon and returniung to the beach from outside, getting on land and immideatly start feeding as if nothing happend!!!!!!!

    there are nor many Fotos of that, you will find some few of SIF Homepage .
    The resident rangers tell this happens regularly.




    P1070913.JPG

    B:
    Aldabra is the very, very worst place (for any tortoise) to live on.

    We know this animals as giant tortoises.

    In reality the majority of the 100.000 survivors live on Grand Terre Island near cinq cases.

    The average weight of the adult males is 22,7 kg!!!!

    (not 200+ kg than in our enclosures- and many semi wild populations with plenty of Food and protection!)

    Main Problem is the extraordinary heat, lack of shade and Food
    ( and water, but the latter seem not to be the main Problem)



    P1070920.JPG


    It is really not a hostile place to live!
    But anyhow they manage to live there!


    Jemo
  20. Mini

    Mini Active Member 5 Year Member

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    Well, my Buddy has not seen another tort in 20 years. I am his third owner, he grew up with little dogs and tries to get close to the other little dogs.
    He was owned by 2 other women that didn't know what kind of tort her was. I'm amazed he survived his first 10 years with his first owner. Then he lived 5 years with second owner. I've had him 1.5 years, hooked up with 3 awesome veterinarians, Houston Zoo head vet, Joe Flanagan is my mentor in tortoise care. Anyway... Buddy does fine without his kind around and is bonded to humans.. He follows me around and leans his body next to me constantly.
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