February 07, 2008
Madagascar's endemic turtles and tortoises are threatened by the pet trade, poaching for food, and habitat destruction, but their conservation offers opportunities for community-based ecotourism.
Gathering in Madagascar's capital city of Antananarivo, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups said that habitat destruction, illegal hunting, and the wildlife trade for the international pet market are the biggest threats to Madagascar's turtles and tortoises. Five of the nine species assessed by IUCN have been downgraded to critically endangered, including the ploughshare tortoise, radiated tortoise, flat-tailed tortoise, spider tortoise and Madagascar big-headed turtle.
Radiated tortoise at Cap Saint Marie, a protected area on the southernmost tip of Madagascar. Photos by Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society
The committee recommended the formation of a "tortoise brigade" to monitor and control illegal trade. Confiscated tortoises would be returned to the wild in areas where populations had been overexploited. The researchers said that with proper law enforcement and protection, the restoration of turtles and tortoises could boost ecotourism, providing income for local people.
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