Comments on the proposed conservation of usage of Testudo gigantea Schweigger, 1812 (currently Geochelone (Aldabrachelys) gigantea; Reptilia, Testudines) 29

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2009
Authors:Morgan, J
Journal:Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature
Volume:66
Issue:3
Start Page:287
Pagination:287
Date Published:09/2009
Type of Article:Comment
ISSN:0007-5167
Full Text

I am writing as the Minister responsible for Environment on behalf of
the Government of Seychelles. It has come to our attention that a
petition has recently been submitted to the International Commission on
Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN): ‘Case 3463 – Testudo gigantea Schweigger, 1812 (currently Geochelone (Aldabrache/ys) gigantea;
Reptilia, Testudines): proposed conservation of usage of the specific
name by maintenance of a designated neotype, and suppression of Testudo dussumieri Gray, 1831 (currently Dipsoche/ys dussumieri),’ published in this year’s Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature (BZN 66(1): 34–50) and submitted by Dr J. Frazier of the Smithsonian Institution.

  This issue is of great relevance to the Republic of Seychelles for it
is our sovereign country – and only our country – in which the animal
in question lives in the wild. The place where this endangered tortoise
lives, Aldabra Atoll, was inscribed into the World Heritage List in
1982, an international initiative coordinated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in implementation of the United Nations’ Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Of
all the forms of life that live on Aldabra Atoll and indeed in the
entire country of Seychelles, it is the Aldabra giant tortoise that is
most famous and the most iconic.
  The Government of Seychelles
does not wish to dictate to scientists what they have to do. But it is
our responsibility and duty to make every effort to protect our natural
resources, particularly unique forms of life that only occur in our
country, as well as the areas in which they live and on which they
depend. The Government of Seychelles’s dedication and commitment to the
environment is globally recognised and we are enormously proud to be
the stewards of this unique animal and the unique Aldabra Atoll.
However, protection cannot be effective if scientists cannot make up
their minds about something such as the correct name to be used for the
Aldabra tortoise. Legislation, customs activities, international
relations, educational activities, budgets and policy decisions all
become unnecessarily complicated, confused and unproductive, and
difficult to administer when there are many different scientific names
in circulation.

  We note that Case 3463 provides an extremely detailed analysis of the
scientific names involved with the long history of the Aldabra
tortoise. It is not our place to dictate on the rules of zoological
nomenclature but it is our place to guarantee that our wildlife is
adequately understood and protected. It is clearly explained in Case
3463 that for a variety of reasons the species’ name that has been
established for the Aldabra tortoise for more than a century is gigantea. This
is the name that appears in our legislation, in the legislation of
other countries, in international treaties and a host of other official
documents. For this reason, we respectfully request that you accept the
petition made in Case 3463, aimed at stabilising the name of the
Aldabra tortoise, using the established scientific name for the
species.
  Furthermore, to avoid needless confusion in the
future, it is also necessary to invalidate the name that has come into
increasing use over the last few years, a name that had been forgotten
for more than 150 years. To do otherwise is to risk continuation of
uncertainty.

Case: 
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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