A giant tortoise of Seychelle species was filmed chasing and attacking a baby bird on Fregate Island. The species was considered herbivore. According to the researchers, it was the first deliberate hunting seen in a while by this species. 

In July 2020, a video of a tortoise recorded on Fregate Island got viral as she was found to be stalking and chasing a tern chick. After an unsuccessful snap, she finally gulped its head with the help of her clamps and left it dead headless. 

‘Vegetarian’ giant tortoise filmed attacking and eating seabird

The video clearly shows how the giant tortoise grabbed the head of a baby chick who had fallen from its nest. After chasing it for a bit, when the chick slowed down, she exploited the moment and grabbed its head, leading to the chick’s death. 

On Monday, The University of Cambridge called this incident

“the first documentation of deliberate hunting in any wild tortoise species.”  

Fregate is a privately owned island and a home to 3000 tortoises. The island is known for ecotourism—people from around the world visit it to admire wildlife and see a giant tortoise. 

Similar attacks have been reported in that area, but it was the first time that the species everybody thought to be herbivores found actively chasing a baby bird.

As per research published in Current Biology, The giant Seychelle tortoise belongs to the Aldabrachelys gigantea. This species is considered to be strictly herbivore. 

Moreover, Dr. Justin Gerlace, the University of Cambridge Museum of Zoology researcher, stated,

“This is completely unexpected behavior and has never been seen before in wild tortoises.”

Some other researchers believe that this wild behavior is triggered by the tree nesting tern colony forming on the island. 

On the other hand, Gerlach communicated his thoughts in a Cell Press statement that

It looked to me like that individual had hunted successfully before; it seemed to know what it was doing.”

Gerlach believes it could be the beginning of new behaviors in the tortoise and added, this revival of tortoise and sea birds populations

“recreated conditions for natural behaviors that people haven’t seen for hundreds of years”.

Gerlach concluded his remarks for the incident as “It’s clear that they enjoy eating terns. Compared to the ease of eating plants, they’re going to cause quite a lot of trouble.”