Rare Madagascan tortoises missing from breeding station

Rare Madagascan tortoises missing from breeding station

Rare Madagascan tortoises seized from illegal wildlife traders and worth millions of baht on the black market are believed to have been stolen from a bird breeding station in Si Racha district, Chon Buri province,

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has set up a committee to investigate the disappearance of  the 78 missing tortoises, Thairath Online reported.

Adisorn Noochdumrong, deputy director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, said the endangered tortoises were being kept at Bang Phra Water Bird Breeding Station in May.  He had lodged a complaint with Si Racha police.

There were six Astrochelys yniphora and 72 Astrochelys radiata tortoises, both species endemic to Madagascar.

Yniphora is the rarest species of tortoise on earth.  One of the six missing was about 10 years old, about 12 inches long, and worth 1 to 2 million.  Each of the other five was three to four years old, six inches long, and worth about 200,000 baht.

Radiata is a radiated tortoise, considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful tortoises and at high risk of extinction. They bring 3,000 – 10,000 baht each on the black market.

The missing tortoises are worth about 3 million baht in total.

Mr Adisorn said he had reported the suspected theft to Thanya Netithammakul, director-general of the department, and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Kanjanarat, who ordered the setting up of the investigation committee.

He said the tortoises were seized from wildlife traders and were being cared for at Bang Phra Water Bird Breeding Station.  Madagascar had asked for their return, as allowed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or Cites convention.