Posted on 27 April 2018
On April 10, a seizure of 9,888 radiated tortoises was carried out in Betsinjake, Toliara II.
On April 10, a seizure of 9,888 radiated tortoises was carried out in Betsinjake, Toliara II. This seizure was the most important in the history of the trafficking of this endemic species in Madagascar. For comparison, a report from TRAFFIC – the joint program of WWF and the IUCN to fight against illegal sale of wild animals – which came out in 2015, recorded that 11,363 radiated tortoises were seized between 2000 and 2014!
The radiated tortoise is an endemic species from the south and south-west of Madagascar. In the 1990s, the population of this species was estimated at 12 million individuals, decreasing to 6 million in 2013. It is now estimated that there are no more than 3 million individuals in nature. The principal reason for this precipitous decline is their collection for local and international trade. Unforutnately, both tortoise meat and the radiated pattern of their shells are highly valued in certain parts of the country. The tortoise’s increasing rarity makes it an attractive item for collectors the world over. The radiated tortoise is on the IUCN red list (“critically endangered”) and was discussed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Furthermore it is one of the animals that enjoys the highest level of legislative protection. The law dictates that there are punishments for infractions related to the possession, transport, and trade of this species, which can merit 4 to 20 years in prison and fines of between 100 million and 400 million ariary.
Despite this, tortoises continue to be seized in airports, personal vehicles, taxi-brousses, houses, even in coffins…the power of the law is relatively weak, whether it is on the side of those who have the responsibility to enforce it or on the side of those who do not fear violating it.
The seizure of April 10, 2018 was made possible through the vigilance, diligence and engagement of a task-force created in 2017, made up of civil society, local environmental management of ecology and forests, WWF, MNP, communication services in Tuléar, the court system of Toliara, the region of Atsimo Andrefana, the police and national guard and the regional management of mines. It was supported by BIANCO.
I congratulate them will all of my heart, and I thank all of the people and organizations that have contributed to this unprecedented seizure. I thank also all of the people of goodwill, and the conservation organizations, in particular the Tortoise Village of Ifaty and Turtle Survival Alliance, which helped to welcome and administer treatment to the animals. The tortoises are now in the shelter, but more than 600 died following the mistreatment that they endured.
The seizure of April 10, 2018 revealed clearly the existence of an organized network for the illicit radiated tortoise trade. In other words, they didn’t amass 10,000 tortoises in a day, and it seems equally less plausible that they had planned to sell that many in the back alleys of Toliara or even Tana. Such a quantity of animals suggests careful organization and extensive human resources.