Giant tortoises engage in epic battle and "high speed" pursuit
Giant Galapagos tortoises are majestic beasts that regularly reach a weight of over 500lbs and can reach an age of approximately 200 years. Slow moving and gentle, they eat almost any form of vegetation that grows on the islands that they inhabit. They spend a great deal of their time grazing or sleeping. They are wonders of nature with a metabolism so slow and the ability to store so much fat that they can manage to survive as long as a full year without eating or drinking, if needed. When full grown, they have few natural predators, although they have suffered from competition with invasive species such as goats, intentionally introduced by humans. They have also struggled with the effects of a rat population, accidentally introduced by humans. Rats will prey on tortoise eggs and young tortoises.
Few animals compare to the giant tortoises when it comes to peacefulness, yet even these great beasts can be territorial and aggressive on occasion. These two tortoises found themselves in a skirmish when they came into close contact in a patch of grass. Two rival males, it was clear that one had to go. The first sign of trouble was that both of them raised their heads, extending their necks fully in an effort to bite the other. The slightly larger male on the left began trying to bite the neck of the tortoise on the right. The smaller tortoise wisely decided to make a hasty getaway. He turned and ran, carefully turning his body to prevent access to his neck.
The large tortoise bumped the smaller in what appears to be a move to turn or flip the smaller one. This resembles a “pit manoeuvre”, a technique used by police to terminate an escape by a fleeing motor vehicle. The smaller tortoise escapes and puts on a burst of speed that is impressive for such a heavy and ancient creature. Skillfully putting a small tree in between them, he flees as quickly as a tortoise can. The larger male pursues at top speed but the tree slows him down enough that he gives up. The fleeing tortoise can’t possibly see over his shoulder and he doesn’t dare stop to see if he’s being followed. He continues his race to higher ground and safety.
Although this is natural behavior in any animal species, essential to establishing the pecking order and domination, it is extremely unexpected to see two tortoises engaged in a full on battle and foot pursuit.