Madagascar pursues stolen tortoises in Thailand

A ploughshare tortoises. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Madagascar has sent an emergency mission to Bangkok following the recent largest ever seizure of smuggled ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelysynophora) by the Thai authorities.

The purpose of the mission, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust said in a press release, is to assess the health of tortoises trafficked out of Madagascar in a suitcase in March.

The illicit wildlife from the island nation have been kept at a rescue centre since their seizure in Bangkok.

However, the animals have been reported to be in poor health while a number have already died, most likely due to the inadequate care they received from the smugglers during the long journey from their home in north-western Madagascar.

The team from Madagascar will also be exploring new measures that can be used to avert future smuggling.

The ploughshare species are the rarest and most threatened tortoises in the world.

It is only found in a single location in the thick bamboo scrub in the north-western Madagascar.

The tortoise is highly prized as a pet, especially in South East Asia, and illegal trade was now the biggest threat to the species’ survival.

“The ploughshare tortoise is perilously close to extinction. We think there are fewer than 400 adults left in their natural habitat. Even though the seized animals were mainly babies, losing 54 individuals from the wild represents a huge blow to the population, which is why we are doing everything we can to ensure their health and bring them back to Madagascar,” Mr Richard Lewis, the Programme Director for Durrell in Madagascar, said.

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