A team of biologists from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reported today that Madagascar's radiated tortoise – considered one of the most beautiful tortoise species – is rapidly nearing extinction due to rampant hunting for its meat and the illegal pet trade.
The team predicts that unless drastic conservation measures take place, the species will be driven to extinction within the next 20 years.
The team recently returned from field surveys in southern Madagascar's spiny forest, where the once-abundant tortoises occur. They found entire regions devoid of tortoises and spoke with local people who reported that armed bands of poachers had taken away truckloads of tortoises to supply open meat markets in towns such as Beloha and Tsihombe. Poaching camps have been discovered with the remains of thousands of radiated tortoises, and truckloads of tortoise meat have been seized recently.
"Areas where scores of radiated tortoises could be seen just a few years ago have been poached clean," said James Deutsch, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Africa Program. "Back then one could hardly fathom that this beautiful tortoise could ever become endangered, but such is the world we live in, and things can – and do – change rapidly.""The rate of hunting of radiated tortoises is similar to the hunting pressure on American bison during the early 19th century, where they were nearly hunted to extinction when they once numbered in the tens of millions," said Brian D. Horne, turtle conservation coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society's Species Program.
"Radiated tortoises are truly under siege now as never before, and if we can't draw a line in the sand around 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:
Years of extreme drought that have led to diminished agricultural production and increased poverty, which leads people to tortoise hunting for survival;
Enforcement action is often days away so that local officials do not have the capacity to stop poachers;
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;
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 executive vice president for Conservation Science, testified before Congress recommending that freshwater turtles and tortoises receive greater attention under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-administered Marine Turtle Conservation Fund.
The Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo owns many radiated tortoises kept at the Behler Chelonian Conservation Center and other U.S. zoos and about a dozen held at the WCS Bronx Zoo. Many of these are Species Survival Program-recommended animals for breeding. These animals form a significant percentage of the animals in the U.S.
John Delaney | EurekAlert!
Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Plenty of habitat for bears in Europe
24.07.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
16.08.2018 | Information Technology
16.08.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.08.2018 | Information Technology