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Tortoise Defends His Lady in a Super Slow Chase

Here’s what happens when you interrupt two giant reptiles just trying to get in a bit of quality time together

Unsurprisingly, some giant tortoises take issue with humans trying to watch them breed. (Ruth Tomlinson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

No one likes to be interrupted in the middle of important business—and apparently that’s especially true for a pair of giant tortoises not so quietly attempting to mate in a patch of secluded greenery.

Explorer Paul Rose recently led a National Geographic Pristine Seas expedition to Seychelles, an archipelago off the northeastern coast of Madagascar. While touring the tiny island of Assumption (a locale once devastated by human intervention), he was “drawn toward a powerful rhythmic grunting coming from dense bushes,” he writes. (Something like this.) 

His curiosity led him to the site of two Aldabra giant tortoises either just finishing or just beginning that magical (highly awkward) culmination of tortoise love. But the male of the pair had no intention of allowing spectators.

With the explorer in his sights, the lumbering Romeo, weighing in at more than 600 pounds, gave chase—albeit a slow-and-steady one. “But there was absolutely no stopping him,” writes Rose. “He got close, very close, close enough that his snorting and spitting plus the look in his enraged eyes above his snapping powerful beak made us retreat in a panic.”

Luckily, the pretty hilarious scene was captured on film for your viewing pleasure. (After all, what kind of tortoise voyeur doesn’t bring a camera?)

Rose came away from the whole experience noting that the “presence and vitality of these tortoises serves as a reminder that, given a chance, even in a once devastated ecosystem, nature will rebuild.” But here’s another, older lesson to be mined: when procreation is involved, determination can sometimes outpace even the speediest movers. 

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