Saturday, March 12, 2011
Mauritius - Extinct Mauritian Giant Tortoises
The Mauritius Post Ltd issued on 16 July 2009 a set of 4 postage stamps depicting the extinct giant tortoises of Mauritius and Rodrigues. The Mascarene Islands of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues once harboured 5 species of giant tortoises, with 2 occurring on Mauritius and 2 on Rodrigues. The name Cylindraspis actually means Cylinder-shaped. They differed from any other giant tortoise species, with modified jaws, reduced scales on the legs and shells averaging 1 mm thick. The need for protective armour was no longer required because of the absence of predators on the islands. With the arrivals of humans in the 16th century and the subsequent introduction of domestic animals, especially pigs, the tortoises were rapidly hunted to extinction.