World’s rarest tortoises to lose face value
Conservation organisations fighting to save one of the world’s most threatened tortoises from poachers are resorting to drastic measures — engraving identification codes onto the animals’ shells to reduce their black market value.
Although fully protected, Ploughshare tortoises which are prized for their beautiful high domed shells are being pushed closer to the brink of extinction due to high demand as unique and exotic pets. Engraving a tortoise’s shell makes it less desirable to traffickers and easier for enforcement agencies to trace.
Found only in north‐western Madagascar, the tortoise is critically endangered and only an estimated 400 adults remain in the wild. Numbers have been devastated through illegal collection and export to meet the international demand for the pet trade, especially in Southeast Asia where they are sold in markets particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
In March, two smugglers were arrested with 52 Ploughshare tortoises in suitcases while attempting to enter Thailand, where traders redistribute the animals to dealers both locally and abroad. This was the largest ever seizure of Ploughshare tortoises in Southeast Asia. One of the smugglers, a Malagasy woman was jailed, while the other, a Thai man, was released on bail.
This case exemplifies the increased audacity of smugglers, the urgency of the situation and the need for enforcement agencies to take the illegal trade in this species far more seriously. Based on seizures reported in the media, at least 86 Ploughshare tortoises have been seized since 2010. Over 60% of these seizures occurred in Thailand while remaining seizures took place in Madagascar and Malaysia with at least one of the shipments destined for Indonesia.
Four organisations – Wildlife Reserves Singapore, TRAFFIC, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Turtle Conservancy – are joining forces to hold a “Tattoo the Tortoise” event on 16th December at the Singapore Zoo to raise awareness on the plight of the Ploughshare and to build support to fight illegal trafficking of the species.
The Singapore Zoo currently houses two Ploughshare tortoises which were confiscated by the Agri‐Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore in 2009. The pair will be used to establish an ‘assurance colony’ in Singapore. – December 17, 2013.The Singapore Zoo currently houses two Ploughshare tortoises which were confiscated by the Agri‐Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore in 2009. The pair will be used to establish an « assurance colony » in Singapore. The top shell of each tortoise will be engraved during this event – a first for Southeast Asia.
The event will include presentations by experts working on the conservation of these tortoises and an exhibition open to the public. These activities provide an opportunity for the public, governments and other relevant bodies to learn about the dire situation these animals face, and what they can do to save the Ploughshare tortoises.
– December 17, 2013.