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Seychelles: keep the military off of the tortoises’ atoll!

February 16, 2018 Visit Africa / Seychelles No Comments Email Email

Aldabra Atoll is a rare and beautiful tropical paradise. Seen from above, the coral islands form a nearly closed ring that is home to a riot of marine biodiversity. The undisputed rulers of the islands are the thousands of giant tortoises. Biologists have documented 400 endemic species and subspecies, including birds such as the Aldabra drongo.

Thousands of giant tortoises call Aldabra Atoll home. (© Serge Vero)

The island of Assumption lies about 37 kilometers to the southwest. With its landing strip and a handful of buildings, it is home to the scientists that are the only continuous human presence on the islands. Their isolation could soon be a thing of the past, however.

India wants to build a military base on Assumption, and the Seychelles government is planning to cede control of the island to India for 20 years. For India, the atoll is not an isolated speck of land, but a potentially vital strategic outpost in its rivalry with China.

Environmentalists are alarmed at the prospect: The atoll has remained pristine because of its remote location and the limited number of people allowed to visit. That would change dramatically – and in the worst case, the island could become a battlefield.

Construction workers and military personnel could introduce invasive animal and plant species to the islands with unpredictable consequences for the ecosystem. Soldiers would litter the island with plastic and other waste. Ships and aircraft would cause noise and pollute the air. Leaking fuel and oil could contaminate the soil and water – not to mention the possibility of major oil spills.

These pristine islands must not be sacrificed to military and geopolitical interests. Please sign our petition to the government of the Seychelles and UNESCO to protect Aldabra Atoll.

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