Cylindraspis indica (Schneider)

Reunion Giant Tortoise (Cylindraspis indica)

The Reunion Giant Tortoise was described in 1783, it was endemic to the island of Réunion, Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean, where it formerly was extremely numerous, forming large herds.

The species was the largest within its genus, with carapace lenghts of 0,5 to 1,1 m.

There appear to have been both dome-shaped as well as saddle-shaped individuals in this species and they may in fact constitute two distinct species, as it is the case on the two neigboring islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues, which each harbored two endemic tortoise species once.


The tortoises were killed by the first European settlers but also caught in vast numbers by sailors to be stacked into the holds of their ships, where they, simply being turned on their backs condemned to die a horrible slow death, provided a source of fresh meat for months.

The species disappeared at the beginning of the 18th century with the last remaining individuals surviving in hidden spots on the highlands until around 1840.


Depiction from: Joannis Davidis Schoepff: Historia testudinum iconibus illustrata. Erlangae: J. J. Palm 1792-1801

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edited: 19.01.2020