by Jordan Gray
It’s been nearly two months since the more than 10,000 Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) were seized from wildlife traffickers, and our response teams are still hard at work in Madagascar! Currently, “Team Radiata 4” continues this profound relief effort by providing daily medical and animal care for the thousands of tortoises still at the SOPTOM-CRCC “Village des Tortues” in Ifaty. Although the medical team continues to see fewer new medical cases and a significant decrease in mortality, we are not “out of the woods” yet—with many animals still needing that extra “push” to survive.
From right to left: Avimasy (TSA), Dr. Ed Ramsay (Zoo Knoxville), Sue Faso, Andrew Ahl (Indianapolis Zoo), Rachael Parchem (Shedd Aquarium), Vonintsoa (TSA), Dr. Charles Innis (New England Aquarium),Ny Aina Tiana Rakotoarisoa (TSA)
In addition to their daily medical and animal care routines, the veterinarians and husbandry specialists continue to assess the health of the animals for transfer to the TSA’s conservation facility near Itampolo. This past week, the team identified, assessed, and successfully transferred over 1,300 tortoises to the facility, which lies 85 miles (137 km) south of Ifaty. The addition of these tortoises now means that 80% of the seized tortoises have been transferred from the SOPTOM “Village des Tortues” to our TSA-Itampolo facility.
Young Radiated Tortoises recieve a hydrating soak in their temporary enclosure.
To increase our ability to receive and maintain the thousands of tortoises in Itampolo, the Malagasy construction team, currently aided by Mark Lewandowski of the Wildlife Conservation Society, continues to expand the facility’s infrastructure. This expansion currently includes the building of additional large, natural, forested enclosures, an on-site clinic, food preparation area, and water storage tanks. Likewise, keepers from our Tortoise Conservation Center (TCC) provide daily animal care for the many thousands of tortoises already transferred to the facility from Ifaty. Providing exemplary husbandry for this many tortoises is no small task, but our TSA-Madagascar staff are rising to the challenge.
Dr. Charles Innis (New England Aquarium) inspects a juvenile Radiated Tortoise.
With a goal of eventually releasing the tortoises into protected sanctuaries within their native range, the TSA and our partners are in this for the long haul. Between now and then, the nearly 10,000 animals will still be reliant on us for daily animal care and life support. With daily care including “life checks,” health assessments, hydration assistance, and feeding, the long-term effort to rehabilitate these animals will be colossal. To succeed in this endeavor, we will need to continue scheduling and sending animal care specialists to Madagascar. Special consideration will be given to those who can help provide leadership and training for new staff in Itampolo. If you or your institution would like to offer this support, please contact Andrew Walde at email@example.com.
Dr. Ed Ramsay (Zoo Knoxville) and Rachael Parchem (Shedd Aquarium) provide medical treatment for a juvenile tortoise.
The projected cost for this multi-year relief and rehabilitation operation is immense. If you would like to directly aid in the return of these critically endangered tortoises to their native habitat, please consider DONATING HERE.
Sue Faso inspects a juvenile tortoise for transfer to our TSA-Itampolo facility.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Indianapolis Zoo, New England Aquarium, Zoo Knoxville, Wildlife Conservation Society, Shedd Aquarium, and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for sending this team of wildlife warriors to join us in Madagascar!