Giant Tortoises on Changuu Island, Zanzibar: Taking it Slow
Weekend Traveller Series
Giant Tortoises on Changuu Island
They may be slow, but the Giant Tortoise, (Geochelone gigantea), has seen more history than we can ever imagine. These tortoises can live to be one hundred years old. During the 1930’s to 40’s, these beautiful creatures were used for “sport” in races. Imagine sitting on the backs of these giant tortoises and hitting them with sticks to make them move beyond their capacity. They were often hit so hard that their shells would break. You can still see some of the tortoises with damaged shells today.
Luckily, Changuu island, or Prison island as it is also known, has provided a safe haven. The former private island is owned by the government of Zanzibar. As a private island it was a detention centre for non compliant slaves, then a prison was built there in 1893. It was never actually used as a prison, but as a quarantine area for the region. The Zanzibar government, in conjunction with the World Society for the Protection of Animals, provide a protected sanctuary for the tortoises. The number of tortoises in residence has varied over the years. All tortoises have microchips inserted for identity and protection.
You can get up close and personal with the tortoises at the sanctuary. They will be your best friend at feeding time, which you are allowed to participate in. Tourism is now the mainstay of the island. While on the island take your lead from these beautiful Giant Tortoises. Slow and easy does it.
Have you visited Changuu Island, or any other animal sanctuary? Tell us about it.