Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thailand Traps Two Turtle Transgressors

Two smugglers are facing charges in Thailand after authorities caught them attempting to sneak more 54 live Ploughshare tortoises into the country.  The tortoise's wild population is estimated at between 400 and 600, so the contraband represents 10 percent of the tortoise's remaining population.

This Ploughshare tortoise (aka Angonoka or Madagascar tortoise)  is one of the rarest land tortoises in the world.  In the wild the turtle is only found in northwest Madagascar where it is endemic to the dry forests in the Baly Bay area near the coast,   The population estimate for the angonoka tortoise in the wild is estimated at a maximum of 600 individuals, and still decreasing. The tortoise is at an extremely high risk of extinction; it is thought it will become extinct in the wild in the next 10 to 15 years.

“The criminals behind this shipment of Ploughshare Tortoises have effectively stolen over 10% of the estimated population in the wild," said Dr. Chris R. Shepherd, deputy director of wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic, per a statement released by the organization. “We urge authorities to go after the criminal masterminds behind these shipments and break the trade chains that threaten these incredibly rare animals."

According to reports, a 38-year-old Thai man and a 25-year-old woman from Madagascar, were arrested at Thailand's Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The woman's name was on the bag's luggage tag, and the man had attempted to collect it from the luggage carousel.

The sole captive breeding facility in Madagascar was robbed of 75 tortoises In 1996-- the thieves were never found.  Ultimately, the breeding facility was a success, achieving 224 captive-bred juveniles out of 17 adults by the end of  2004.

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