by Heather Lowe
You may have read about the recent reintroduction of confiscated radiated tortoises into the Ampotaka sacred forest in September. These tortoises (157 total) had been confiscated from Ivato International Airport in July and the TSA was appointed by the authority to look after them. All of the tortoises were measured and weighed as part of their exam prior to release. After a full evaluation, ten juvenile tortoises did not meet the release criteria on September 19 and were instead kept in the village of Ampotaka to allow for a longer recovery period prior to their reintroduction.
Ampotoka is the site of a prior tortoise release in March 2011 and has a history of collaboration with the TSA. During their meetings with the TSA in March, local leaders communicated a commitment to tortoise protection in their sacred forest. However, they faced many challenges – primarily an inability to communicate with authorities to report poaching in the area. To do so, they had to walk for days to Beloha because phone communication was not avaiable. At that time, the TSA agreed to buy a cell phone for the village.
Two weeks after the September release, a representative of the community-based forest management team in Ampotaka called Herilala Randriamahazo (TSA Madagascar), using their new cell phone, to report that one of the ten tortoises left in the village was found dead. Despite the bad news, there is a sign of an improved communication with the Ampotaka village using cellphone technology, which is encouraging.
We are also pleased to announce that Miss Soary Randrianjafizanaka, a PhD student from Toliara University will join the TSA Madagascar team to carry out a post-release study on the 147 released tortoises in the very near future.
The TSA would like to thank Air Madagascar, which provided a discounted ticket for Herilala Randriamahazo, on behalf of Salamandra Nature, to accompany the tortoises as they were moved from the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership offices in Antananarivo to the release site in September.