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Losing the race: Illegal trade devastating Madagascar’s radiated tortoise

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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radiated tortoiseArmed bands of poachers are illegally collecting Madagascar’s radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) by the truckload for the lucrative pet and meat trades, according to a report from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). As a result of this rampant overexploitation the once-common species could be driven into extinction in the next two decades. Radiated tortoises, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful of all turtles, and therefore highly valued in the pet trade, are only found in Madagascar.

“Areas where scores of radiated tortoises could be seen just a few years ago have been poached clean,” James Deutsch, director of the WCS’s Africa Program, said in a prepared statement. The organizations say they have discovered poaching camps with the remains of thousands of radiated tortoises.

“I can’t think of a tortoise species that has undergone a more rapid rate of decline in modern times, or a more drastic contraction in range, than the radiated tortoise,” said Rick Hudson, president of the TSA.

Already listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the radiated tortoise is the only member of its genus.

Madagascar has been in a state of political unrest for the past several years, which has allowed wildlife crime to expand dramatically. The situation has been worsened, according to the WCS and TSA, by years of drought that make it difficult to grow crops, so wild-caught meat is a more important food source for the poverty-stricken populace.

Photo: Radiated tortoise, via Wikipedia





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  1. 1. Uncle B 3:18 pm 04/9/2010

    Human-kind, voracious predators – look at the American Corporatist, Capitalists deserting their own home-grown Great Hulking American Neanderthals for little 89 pound Oriental ladies, willing to build cars 7 days a week, 12 hours a day in factories designed just for them in Shanghai, Beijing, Hang Seng stock market built, American capital financed, semi-slavery! No different – no Altruism lost here, no religious undertones, no "Nation Building going on! Cash exchange for car parts to be put into Asian cars sold in U.S. and around the world under various brand-plates! Eat the goddammit turtles! Enjoy your soup! We will move onto the next victim when this one gives up the ghost! Whales, Dophins, Porpoise, Sharks whatever! Humanity has grown in such great populations as to be facing the end times without realizing it! Even the mighty exploiter the U.S.A. the birth-place of corporatism and Capitalism fails as we speak, and you want to spare a few turtles? Good luck!

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  2. 2. brsecu 3:41 pm 04/9/2010

    Uncle B. Put down the pipe and step away from the computer. Maybe go out and get a massage. Relax.

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  3. 3. hotblack 4:32 pm 04/9/2010

    In many places, man has become a scourge upon the world.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to poaching the poachers once my work here is done. Hopefully by then there are still some of these tortoises left.

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  4. 4. namora 9:40 am 04/12/2010

    Boy! wanna tell me how you really feel?

    Link to this
  5. 5. namora 9:43 am 04/12/2010

    Gee wana tell us what you really think?

    Link to this
  6. 6. Conundrum 12:39 pm 04/12/2010

    Allowing private ownership may address the problem. Consider the elephant:

    Daniel Hannan, addressing the European Parliament:

    “Mr President, let me tell you the story of two African countries. In 1978 Kenya banned the hunting of elephants and that decision was followed by an almost total destruction of elephant herds in Kenya. Round about the same time – in 1979 – Rhodesia, as it was still called, made elephants the property of whoever’s land they were roaming on. Result – explosion of elephant numbers.

    We in this House do not think of the elephant in the way that the African does. We are not threatened by it; it does not trample our crops; it does not destroy our villages; and it does not damage human health. The only way to prevent local populations from doing the logical thing, which is to eliminate a dangerous menace, is by giving them an incentive in treating it as a renewable resource. This, of course, is what Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe – successfully did. Environmental policy should recognise the basic Aristotelian wisdom that that which nobody owns, nobody will care for.”

    from Mises Economics Blog http://blog.mises.org/12008/daniel-hannan-privatize-the-elephant

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  7. 7. Daniela - VAKANALA NGO 8:42 am 04/13/2010

    go Malagasy people! continue! and we’ll all understand the real value of our only richness (our biodiversity) when all of then will totally disappear.
    Thanks to the foreign people who care of our natural resources. For those who do not yet, you can visit our website: http://www.vakanala.org

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