Playing Soccer for Endangered Tortoises

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TSA Madagascar recently participated in a very special event to raise awareness for the endangered radiated tortoise. A soccer tournament was organized and sponsored in Antananarivo on December 11-12 by Eco-Sys Actions and Salamandra Nature (conservation NGOs) and their partners. The main objective of the event, held at Alarobia Stadium, was to raise public awareness by using soccer – a very popular sport in Madagascar.

The Henry Doorly Zoo’s Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP), Conservation Fusion, Conservation International and the TSA shared a booth at the event to raise awareness of their work in the region. Children had the opportunity to play games at the booth which boosted their knowledge of radiated tortoises (known locally as the “sokake”) and their highly endangered status in the wild. They were also invited to trace their hands onto a large piece of paper to signify their commitment to tortoise conservation. Many children seemed to really enjoy this activity and were very proud to point out their hand and name on the paper to friends and family throughout the day.

Each child was given a paper tortoise and many painted their tortoise while visiting the booth. Older children were asked to draw their own tortoise on a blank piece of paper, using the many photos on display as their inspiration.

Herilala Randriamahazo, the TSA’s Malagasy Tortoise Conservation Coordinator gave a talk to the public present in the stadium explaining the main reason behind the soccer tournament and its relation with biodiversity conservation. The conservation message written in three languages Malagasy, French and English was simple: “help protect Madagascar’s tortoises.”

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The soccer tournament was the center piece of the event and the winning teams in six categories were presented with a very special soccer ball that featured a radiated tortoise design. The group Tsiliva among many other famous Malagasy artists like Jean Emilien and Gothlieb made appearances on the second day of the event. Overall, the event seems to have been a great success, receiving significant coverage in the local media. This media coverage has lead many local people to contact Herilala at the TSA office, several of which have mentioned that they have a radiated tortoise at home that they would be willing to donate to an organized conservation program. The tournament, which was so successful in Antananarivo, will be repeated in Toliara on December 18-19.