Like the American bison or the passenger pigeon the radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) has gone from super-abundant to nearly extinct. The species could be gone by 2030 warn researchers. Photo by Robert Walker.
Once one of the world’s most abundant tortoises, numbering in the millions, Madagascar’s radiated tortoise is on the very brink of extinction. Killed for their meat by one of the world’s most impoverished people, new surveys last month by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), The Orianne Society, and Nautilus Ecology have further confirmed the precipitous decline of this once common reptile.
“Traditionally, tortoise meat was served on special occasions, but now it is eaten on a daily basis. Hundreds of pieces of discarded tortoise shells litter the sidewalks in some communities. This staggering level of consumption is not sustainable,” explains Dr. Christina Castellano, Director of Turtle Conservation at The Orianne Society in a press release.
Armed poaching gangs are causing “the systematic extermination of this species” says Ryan Walker, a biologist with Nautilus Ecology.
Tortoise meat being prepared for sale in a poaching camp. Photo courtesy of The Orianne Society.
Radiated Tortoise shells litter the ground in the town of Tsiombe. Photo courtesy of The Orianne Society.
For more information on the demise of the radiated tortoise:
1000 rare tortoises poached each week in Madagascar
(09/30/2010) One thousand endangered tortoises are being illegally collected each week in southern Madagascar, reports WWF.
Once common tortoise from Madagascar will be ‘extinct in 20 years’
(04/05/2010) The radiated tortoise, once common throughout Madagascar, faces extinction within the next 20 years due to poaching for its meat and the illegal pet trade, according to biologists with the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Returning from field surveys in southern Madagascar’s spiny forest, they found regions without a single turtle. Locals said that armed bands of poachers were taking truckloads of tortoises to be sold in meat markets. The tortoise is also popular in the underground pet trade, although it is protected by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).