Comments on the proposed conservation of usage of Testudo gigantea Schweigger, 1812 (currently Geochelone (Aldabrachelys) gigantea; Reptilia, Testudines) 7

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2009
Authors:Honegge, R
Journal:Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature
Volume:66
Issue:3
Start Page:276
Pagination:276
Date Published:09/2009
Type of Article:Comment
ISSN:0007-5167
Full Text

As Curator of Herpetology (Retired) of Zurich Zoological Garden, Zurich, Switzerland, and a past Chairman of the Swiss Federal Scientific Commission to CITES, I support the petition by Frazier to conserve the specific name gigantea for the Aldabra giant tortoise. This charismatic tortoise species is well-known under this name and such a species deserves to have a stable name.

I am very glad that Dr Jack Frazier is now applying to conserve the specific name gigantea. Within the frame of our daily zoo work we do need stable names. Zoological Gardens within the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) are visited by more than 600 million visitors each year. During my professional life of over 40 years, I have visited about two hundred zoos in Europe, the U.S.A., Africa, Asia and Australia, and noticed that a majority of them label their Aldabra tortoises with the specific name gigantea. Zoos have an important duty in educating all people from young pupils to university graduate students, and will continue to refer to this species as gigantea. The new names proposed will not have the power to change this fact. International organisations such as IUCN or WWF also use the specific name gigantea for the Aldabra giant tortoise.

Another very important issue is the implementation of conservation regulations (such as CITES) at international border posts. As zoo curators we are regularly asked for assistance when animals or animal products are checked by customs. Furthermore we educate customs officers in regular training sessions for identifying animal species. How can we teach customs officers if such relevant questions of naming such important animals are not satisfyingly solved? Destabilising the nomenclature of this threatened species creates potential loopholes in laws and regulations concerning its protection. There will be confusion and chaos when important conservation regulations should be strictly implemented. I do hope very much that the ICZN will accept the arguments given in Case 3463 and give this fascinating tortoise the name it deserves: gigantea.

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith