Today, critical medical supplies from The Florida Aquarium are on their way to Madagascar to treat thousands of tortoises that were confiscated from a single residence in the city of Toliara in Madagascar.
On April 10, the Turtle Survival Alliance, a global partnership of individuals, zoos, aquariums, biologists and researchers who have joined together to help conserve threatened and endangered tortoise and turtle species, confiscated 10,976 critically endangered radiated tortoises from a personal residence.
The tortoises have been temporarily transferred to Villages de Tortues, a secure facility in Madagascar where the animals are receiving initial health evaluations, hydration and triage, but even within the first few days, hundreds of tortoises died from dehydration, malnutrition and illness. As of April 12, 9,760 tortoises are alive, but need immediate help.
More than 20 institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are sending medical supplies, team members or funds to care for the sick or injured tortoises. The first wave of responders arrived in Madagascar April 23. Many of the animals are in relatively good health and are only in need of water and food. However, responders are currently treating more than 1,000 animals for various conditions from severe to mild and they are still working through the initial assessments to determine if more tortoises have similar conditions. Numerous deceased animals have been sent to onsite veterinarians for necropsy (animal autopsy).
“Illegal wildlife trade is a major problem and can have devastating impacts on sensitive animals like these that are already suffering from other major problems, like habitat loss. This case hits particularly close to home since Day, Night, and Dusk, our three radiated tortoises in the Journey to Madagascar gallery, are here to help educate the public about these very threats,” said Dr. Ari Fustukjian, Associate Veterinarian at The Florida Aquarium. “We are always saddened to hear about cases of illegal animal trafficking, but to see something of this magnitude is truly disheartening. What’s encouraging is to see how people and organizations like ours can pull together to help provide relief.”
Madagascar’s radiated tortoise population is threatened with extinction due to rampant hunting for its meat and the illegal pet trade. Radiated tortoises have a unique high dome-shaped shell, covered with a beautiful star-like pattern, which is why they are often collected illegally from the wild in southern Madagascar and shipped to other countries to be sold as pets. The species has been protected by international law since 1975, and was upgraded to “Critically Endangered” in 2008, meaning that they are at risk of extinction.
According to the Turtle Survival Alliance, this is the largest confiscation of tortoises or freshwater turtles in the history of the organization, and president and CEO Rick Hudson, believes these animals were destined to be part of the illegal pet trade.
Want to help? You can visit the Turtle Survival Alliance here.
Malibu, CA January 18, 2016 American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is celebrating its 16th annual World Turtle Day® on May 23rd. The day was created by ATR as an observance to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Since 1990, Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, the founders of ATR, have rescued and rehomed about 3,000 tortoises and turtles to caring homes. ATR also assists law enforcement when undersized or endangered turtles are confiscated and provides helpful information and referrals to persons with sick, neglected or abandoned turtles.
We launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the worlds oldest creatures, said Tellem. These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade, says Tellem. We are seeing smaller turtles coming into the rescue meaning that older adults are disappearing from the wild thanks to the pet trade, so the breeding stock is drastically reduced. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world. (See slide show here.)
Tellem added, We are thrilled to learn that organizations and individuals throughout the world now are observing World Turtle Day, including those in Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK and many other countries.
Tellem notes that biologists and other experts predict the disappearance of turtles and tortoises within the next 50 years. She recommends that adults and children do a few small things that can help save turtles and tortoises for future generations:
- Never buy a turtle or tortoise from a pet shop as it increases demand from the wild.
- Never remove turtles or tortoises from the wild unless they are sick or injured.
- If a tortoise is crossing a busy highway, pick it up and send it in the same direction it was going if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again.
- Write letters to legislators asking them to keep sensitive habitat preserved or closed to off road vehicles and to prevent off shore drilling that can lead to endangered sea turtle deaths.
- Report cruelty or illegal sales of turtles and tortoises to your local animal control shelter.
- Report the use of tiny turtles as prizes at carnivals and other events. Its illegal.
- Report the sale of any turtle or tortoise of any kind less than four inches. It is illegal to buy and sell them throughout the U.S.
Our ultimate goal is to stop the illegal trade in turtles and tortoises around the world. Our first priority here in the U.S. is to ask pet stores and reptile shows to stop the sale of hatchling tortoises and turtles without proper information for the buyer, says Thompson. For example, many people buy sulcata tortoises as an impulse buy because they are so adorable when they are tiny. The breeders and pet stores frequently do not tell the buyers that this tortoise can grow to 100 pounds or more and needs constant heat throughout the year since they do not hibernate.
He added, We also need to educate people and schools about the real risk of contracting salmonella from water turtles. Wash your hands thoroughly every time you touch a turtle or its water, and do not bring turtles into schools or homes where children are under the age of 12.