Increased Illegal Trafficking of Two Critically Endangered Tortoise Species from Madagascar

First Posted: May 03, 2013 09:18 AM EDT

A latest finding states that illegal trafficking of two critically endangered tortoise species from Madagascar have reached epidemic proportions, according to a press statement.

The study was conducted by Wildlife Conservation Society, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Turtle Survival Alliance, Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, Turtle Conservancy, Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund and other groups. These groups emphasize on the need to reduce wildlife smuggling.

The findings state that in the first three months of this year, more than 1,000 radiated and ploughshare tortoises have been taken by smugglers. In March, 54 ploughshare tortoises, which consisted of 13 percent of its entire population, were seized by authorities as a couple tried to smuggle them. Reports from TRAFFIC show that the most common tortoise used for sale in Bangkok is the radiated tortoise.

"These tortoises are truly one of Madagascar's most iconic species," James Deutsch, WCS Executive Director for Africa Programs, said in a press statement. "This level of exploitation is unsustainable. Unless immediate action is taken to better protect the wild populations, their extinction is imminent."

Due to the weak governance and rule of law, the rate of smuggling has increased tenfold. Another factor for their sharp decline has been the erosion of cultural protection for short-term monetary benefits.

In the past, the local belief was that harming a tortoise was taboo, and the species were protected by this belief, called "fady".

In order to curb the illegal trafficking, the Wildlife Conservation Society and its conservation partners are requesting Malagasy officials to take some strict measures and increase the number of guards in remote areas to the north, where the tortoises live.

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