Seychelles officially hands over tortoise to UK park


23-February-2012

Minister Morgan (right) presents a certificate and replica of the Seychelles’ tortoise to Mr Gill in the presence of President Michel and Mrs Dunlop (Photo by GT)

It was the Seychelles’ Minister for Environment, Joel Morgan, who formalised the donation during a ceremony on Tuesday afternoon in London.

He presented a certificate and replicas of the Seychelles’ tortoise to a representative of the park, Iri Gill.
The ceremony took place in the presence of Seychelles’ President James Michel and his delegation who are in London to attend the London Conference on Somalia which opens today.

Also present was the tourism ambassador who initiated the exchange between the Seychelles government and the Cotswold Wildlife Park, Georgia Dunlop, as well as staff of the Seychelles Tourist Office in UK and several Seychellois students studying in London.

Bred male Darwin, named after scientist Charles Darwin, who was one of the first people to propose that the Aldabra atoll in Seychelles become protected, arrived in UK in December.

Minister Morgan said at the ceremony that this was the first time his government has donated a tortoise to the UK and it is now part of a conservation project between the Cotswold Park and the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens.

He added that he was happy Darwin has found a new home where he hoped he will be instrumental in educating and sensitising especially children on the importance of long-term conservation of the wild stock.

“Darwin will also act as an ambassador for Seychelles whereby visitors to the park will be enlightened about the Seychelles so that they would want to visit these beautiful islands,” he said.

“The intentions were to use this flagship species as a marketing tool for Seychelles while at the same time adding to the attractions of the park.”

Minister Morgan then thanked tourism ambassador Dunlop for realising this donation, as one of her projects.

He also traced the history of the giant tortoises in Seychelles, up to 1999 when the Seychelles government endorsed the ‘Wild Animal (Giant Land Tortoise) Protection Regulations’. The giant tortoise has since then been a fully protected species and is listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

When accepting the donation on behalf of the Cotswold Wildlife Park, Mr Gill said: “We are delighted to welcome Darwin to the Cotswold and to start creating links between the Park and the Seychelles.”
He also exchanged memorabilia of the park with Minister Morgan.

Thirty-year-old Darwin, who is of the captive bred, becomes the fourth Aldabra tortoise at the Cotswold Park but the first to be officially donated by the government of Seychelles to the park.

He weighs 142 kg and is the biggest of the giant tortoise collection at the park.
Mrs Dunlop also spoke of the publicity that such an achievement is expected to bring for her home islands, saying it would create more awareness on the destination and hopefully encourage more visitors from UK.

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