by Heather Lowe
On the evening of June 2, Air Madagascar Flight MD 151 from Hahaya Airport returned 968 tortoises to Madagascar, after they were confiscated in the Comoros Islands. The group was comprised of all Radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata), with the exception of one Ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora). All of them are juveniles and the smuggler used eight suitcases to transport the Critically Endangered species. To minimize the tortoises’ movement, the smugglers taped each animal into its shell, which is typical of the cruel conditions to which most confiscated tortoises are exposed.
The TSA team in Madagascar has been given the monumental task of returning as many of these tortoises to the wild as possible, under our comprehensive “Confiscated to Reintroduction” strategy. They are currently working as quickly as possible to assess each animal’s condition and minimize losses. More than 20 were found dead during the team’s initial assessment and this number is likely to increase in the coming days, given the deplorable conditions in which they were transported (below,left). However, the team is hopeful, and reports that a large majority of the tortoises were able to feed by midday today. Another thing in the tortoise’s favor is that weather conditions in the area where they are currently being held is ideal (below, right). We will post updates on this breaking story as they become available. Donations to support the cost of caring for these animals would be appreciated and can be made online by clicking here. Thank you for your support.