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Madagascar's radiated tortoise threatened with extinction
Date:4/5/2010

und protected areas, then we will lose this species" said Rick Hudson, president of the TSA. "I can't think of a tortoise species that has undergone a more rapid rate of decline in modern times, or a more drastic contraction in range, than the radiated tortoise. This is a crisis situation of the highest magnitude."

Formerly occupying a vast swath of the southern portion of the island nation of Madagascar the radiated tortoise was once considered one of the world's most abundant tortoise species, with an estimated population in the millions. It is now ranked as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

One of the most troubling trends is that poachers are now entering protected areas (Special Reserves, National Parks, World Heritage Sites) to collect tortoises and the staff there are poorly equipped to patrol and protect populations. The situation is exacerbated by several factors:

  1. Years of extreme drought that have led to diminished agricultural production and increased poverty, which leads people to tortoise hunting for survival;

  2. Enforcement action is often days away so that local officials do not have the capacity to stop poachers;

  3. Severe habitat degradation has made the spiny forest the most endangered forest type in Madagascar. After burning and clearing for agriculture invasive plant species take over and today thick stands of opuntia (prickly pear) and sisal (agave) dominate the landscape;

  4. Current political instability has resulted in an increased open access to natural resources and illegal pet trade.

The radiated tortoise is still able to "make a living" and survive in this degraded habitat. However, the tortoise cannot survive the current threat of wholesale collection for food markets. Community mobilization linked to sustainable habitat protection is needed to save this unique critically endangered species.

Dr. John Robinson, WCS's execu
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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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