A team of biologists from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reported today that Madagascar's radiated tortoise considered one of the most beautiful tortoise species is rapidly nearing extinction due to rampant hunting for its meat and the illegal pet trade.
The team predicts that unless drastic conservation measures take place, the species will be driven to extinction within the next 20 years.
The team recently returned from field surveys in southern Madagascar's spiny forest, where the once-abundant tortoises occur. They found entire regions devoid of tortoises and spoke with local people who reported that armed bands of poachers had taken away truckloads of tortoises to supply open meat markets in towns such as Beloha and Tsihombe. Poaching camps have been discovered with the remains of thousands of radiated tortoises, and truckloads of tortoise meat have been seized recently.
"Areas where scores of radiated tortoises could be seen just a few years ago have been poached clean," said James Deutsch, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Africa Program. "Back then one could hardly fathom that this beautiful tortoise could ever become endangered, but such is the world we live in, and things can and do change rapidly."
"The rate of hunting of radiated tortoises is similar to the hunting pressure on American bison during the early 19th century, where they were nearly hunted to extinction when they once numbered in the tens of millions," said Brian D. Horne, turtle conservation coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society's Species Program.
Tortoise populations near urban centers have crashed with poachers moving closer and closer to protected areas; it is simply a matter of time before those areas are targeted too, the biologists predict.
"Radiated tortoises are truly under siege now as never before, and if we can't draw a line in the sand aro
|Contact: John Delaney|
Wildlife Conservation Society