By Joanna M. Foster
Madagascar is famous worldwide for being the only place on Earth where the evolutionary freaks known as lemurs run wild. But Madagascar’s wealth of weird and wonderful species found nowhere else on Earth isn’t limited to peculiar primates with oversized eyes. Madagascar is also home to some of the rarest tortoises in the world, which in addition to being threatened by habitat loss and climate change, are also being pushed to the brink of extinction by the exotic pet trade.
Back in March, officials at the international airport in Bangkok, Thailand, discovered suitcases stuffed with two of the rarest tortoise species in the world—ploughshare tortoises and radiated tortoises. In all, there were 75 critically endangered tortoises wrapped in cellophane and crammed into roller bags.
The tortoises were headed for the pet markets of Southeast Asia, which are the single biggest threat to the survival of these species.
The international attention generated by this, the largest seizure in history of these endangered species, has long since been diverted elsewhere. But the tortoises’ ordeal is far from over.
Since their rescue from wildlife smugglers more than three months ago, the tortoises have been cared for at an undisclosed rescue center just outside of Bangkok, where many of the seized tortoises have since died. More....