A fun fact about the Seychelles: there are more endemic giant tortoises on the outer island of Aldabra than there are people in the entire country! These huge, slow, lovely creatures are by far one of the coolest things here at my Aunt’s house in Danzil. We have three giant tortoises that live in the backyard in a big tortoise pen that takes up about a third of the yard. They’re just 16 years old at the moment, so they’re still teenagers, but they’ll likely grow to be approximately 100. Besides just being kind of awesome, the tortoises are a bit of an all purpose composting/yard waste disposal/ invasive species control system. All of the vegetable food waste in the house gets collected in a little compost bin, which we take out to the tortoises when it’s full. Since there’s no compost collection here in Seychelles, this is our alternative to a regular compost heap. What the tortoises don’t eat, they stamp into the ground, which speeds its composting process.

Sundays are tortoise feast days. Every Sunday, we do a big yard cleaning to hack back the plants, which grow quite quickly here in the tropics, and sweep the fallen breadfruit leaves and rotting mangoes off the driveway. Invasive creepers grow everywhere here, and we pull them out so they don’t infest the garden and kill the plants and trees. The tortoises love to munch on all the yard waste, and the invasive vines happen to be one of their favourite things to eat, so it all works out perfectly. Here on the main island Mahe, most of the giant tortoises are kept as pets. Most people only have a handful, but on some of the outer islands and reserves, there are wild populations that roam freely! 

 Mimi Shaftoe is in her third year of Conflict studies at the University of Ottawa. She's passionate about climate and environmental justice, and loves to read and explore new places. She is currently coordinating on A\J's Summer Student Takeover.

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