Horror moment tortoise gets taste for flesh and chows down baby bird

A tortoise thought to be a strict vegetarian was caught on video attacking and eating a baby bird – leaving scientists amazed.

In the clip, the Seychelles giant tortoise stalks a tern chick that looks quite helpless as it stares at its foe and makes a series of high-pitched squeaking sounds.

The young bird then desperately flaps its wings in what might be an attempt to ward off the animal or draw the attention of its parents for help.

Undeterred, the tortoise smacks its jaws down on the baby bird's head and appears to kill it almost instantly.

The bird's lifeless body then flops down onto the ground and someone is heard gasping in the background.

According to witnesses, the tortoise then ate the bird and scientists claim it is "clear that they enjoy eating terns".

The video, recorded on Frégate Island in July last year, has since been discussed in a study published in the journal Current Biology.

Zoologist Dr Justin Gerlach, director of studies at Peterhouse, Cambridge, led the study.

He said: "This is completely unexpected behaviour and has never been seen before in wild tortoises."

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Frégate Island has become home to a larger number of terns after their natural habitat was restored.

Scientists noted that either tortoises have been feeding on terns and it's a habit "people haven’t seen for hundreds of years" or it is a whole new behaviour.

Gerlach said: "These days, Frégate Island’s combination of tree-nesting terns and giant tortoise populations is unusual.

"But our observation highlights that when ecosystems are restored, totally unexpected interactions between species may appear – things that probably happened commonly in the past but we’ve never seen before."

On the flip side, he said it is also possible there are some tortoises "developing a new type of behaviour with evolutionary implications".

Gerlach added: "It’s clear that they enjoy eating terns.

"Compared to the ease of eating plants, they're going to quite a lot of trouble."

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