On February 12th, TSA- Madagscar staff seized 811 juvenile Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) from poachers and moved them to our Tortoise Conservation Center (TCC). They are now undergoing critical care. All are weak and dehydrated from months of being held without food or water, and—though unfortunately we have seen some mortality—most are expected to recover and survive.
Now is a critical time for them, requiring intensive care. Fortunately, TSA’s veterinarian Ny Aina Rakotoarisoa was in southern Madagascar already and was able to quickly reach the scene. She quickly treated those in most serious condition with antibiotics and critical care food supplements, and the tortoises are now receiving frequent soakings to help with rehydration.
Because all of the seized tortoises are weak and malnourished, they require daily feeding. The only food available now is Opuntia cactus pads (which is not ideal food for these weak tortoises), so staff are traveling every two days to the nearest town to purchase fresh greens and fruit to supplement their diet.
And, adding to an already stressful situation, another group of 53 juvenile tortoises were just seized from a passing vehicle due to the watchful eye of one of the TCC security guards. Make no mistake, this is a critical time for tortoises in the wild, as a brutal and prolonged drought with scorching heat (120°F was reported at the TCC one day) is making life harder for people, livestock and tortoises. These conditions contribute to widespread poverty, which in turns leads to increased poaching. Trees are dying and shedding foliage, so TSA Madagascar staff are creating makeshift shade structures.
Thankfully, on Madagascar’s West coast, where we just accepted an additional 130 juvenile Radiated Tortoises at the Lavavolo Tortoise Center (seized by Gendarmerie Nationale – Madagascar at a nearby National Park on February 24) our friends in Germany at the Aktionsgemeinschaft Artenschutz (AGA) e.V. (AGA or Species Protection Action Group) have raised funds to help us address a water shortage there. We are able to purchase a new solar well pump and panels, and we have hired a company to dig the well deeper, another need brought on by the drought.
Our primary needs now are to build new tortoise enclosures at the TCC, pay for additional veterinary care there, continue to travel to secure fresh produce, and pay keepers who are putting in longer hours to care for the new tortoises.
Two weeks ago we issued a call to you to help us raise US $10,000 and we are almost halfway to our goal—including approximately $2800 for the TCC, again through our friends in AGA!
Photos: Jordan Gray and Garth Cripps