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Seychelles giant land tortoise donated to British zoo arrives in the UK

Seychelles giant land tortoise donated to British zoo arrives in the UK ( The Seychelles government has donated a giant Aldabra tortoise to the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens in UK, as part of newly-established conservation links between the islands’ National Botanical Gardens and the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

The bred male tortoise, named Darwin, after the famous Charles Darwin who was one of the first people to propose that the Aldabra atoll in Seychelles remained protected, arrived in UK in the early hours of last Friday morning.

It was the Seychelles’ Tourism Ambassador in the UK, Georgia Dunlop, who initiated an exchange of this nature with the Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire, and her initiative was fully backed by the islands’ Ministry of Environment and Seychelles Tourism Board. It took Georgia Dunlop and other partners working on the project in both countries, three months to finalize the transfer of 25-year-old Darwin from the Seychelles to the UK, and after the landing of the giant tortoise in the UK, Georgia Dunlop said she was happy that the partnership between the Botanical Gardens and the Cotswold Wildlife Park has kicked off on such a good note.

“It is my dream come true to see Darwin finally arrived at the Cotswold Park, and to everyone, he will always symbolize the beginning of this fabulous friendship and partnership between the Botanical Gardens of the Seychelles and Cotswold Wildlife Park of the UK,” Georgia Dunlop said.

Darwin becomes the fourth Seychelles Aldabra tortoise at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, but the first to be officially donated by the government of Seychelles to the park. It is to be noted that the giant land tortoise is endemic to the Seychelles and is listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Mrs. Dunlop, who visited Darwin in his new home this morning, together with the Seychelles Tourism Board’s PR Manager in the UK, Lena Hoareau, explained that the Seychelles Botanical Gardens and Cotswold Wildlife Park of the UK will now agree on a range of exchanges for research purposes.

“I received the help of a lot of people on this project, and there was such an enthusiasm throughout. It shows that both sides place great importance on conservation and there is always that readiness to do more and to learn more,” she said.

Mrs. Dunlop also spoke of the publicity that such an achievement is expected to bring for her home islands of the Seychelles, saying it would create more awareness on the destination and hopefully encourage more visitors from UK to visit the tourist paradise islands of the Seychelles.

Mrs. Dunlop was met upon arrival at the Cotswold Wildlife Park this morning by excited staff members, led by the zoo’s owner, Reggie Heyworth.

“He is just beautiful, and I can’t thank the government of Seychelles enough for this wonderful donation,” said Mr. Heyworth of the tortoise, saying he was amazed by his size and beauty. The Seychelles giant tortoise, Darwin, weighs 143 kg and is set to become the star attraction of the giant tortoise collection at the zoo.

“I’m sure Darwin will be a big attraction here, and we will make sure he feels at home amongst us,” Mr. Heyworth added.

Louise Peat, Registrar at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, said that compared to Darwin, they did not have a lot of background information on the other three Aldabra tortoises. One was donated to them over 20 years ago by a private individual, whereas the other two were offered to them by Customs some years ago after a confiscation exercise.

Ms. Peat said she felt privileged to have worked closely with Mrs. Dunlop on this project and she was excited that the Seychelles giant tortoise, Darwin, is now one of their zoological collections. He adds to the beauty and diversity of the species at the park, she noted.

Darwin will now undergo an observation process until he fully settles in his new environment.

It is good to note that Darwin’s trip is also symbolic in that he traveled on one of Air Seychelles’ last flights to UK, as the airline is ceasing all services to Europe in January.

An official handing-over ceremony of the Seychelles giant tortoise to the Cotswold Park of the UK will take place in February.

PHOTO: Georgia Dunlop and zoo owner, Reggie Heyworth, with the Seychelles Giant Tortoise, Darwin

MEDIA CONTACT: Alain St.Ange, CEO, Seychelles Tourism Board, Email:

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