Considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful tortoises, the Radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata), can now be found in the southern areas of the equally beautiful island of Madagascar (and have also been introduced to the nearby island of Reunion). Sadly, some expects predict that the world may lose this stunning tortoise in the wild forever within the next 45 years.
Did you know that the oldest tortoise ever recorded in history was actually a radiated tortoise? Unfortunately no one is sure exactly how long the tortoise lived with estimates ranging from 150 years all the way up to 250 years. Definitely quite the range!
These stunning creatures are herbivores who spend most of their time grazing … and periodically enjoying some fresh fruits and succulent plants.
These tortoises have the unfortunate honor of being classified Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List , and listed on Appendix I of CITES. The Appendix I designation means that international trade in these tortoises is prohibited except for when the purpose of the import is not commercial (such as for scientific research).
Unfortunately because of the extremely poor economic conditions of the region, many of these laws are being ignored and the collection/trade of these tortoises continues.
So what is wiping out this stunning creature at such an alarming rate?
Unfortunately this tortoise has quite a few problems to contend with on a daily basis:
(1) Habitat destruction; and of course
Humans exploit these species for the international pet trade, as well as hunt them for food in some areas. Asian smugglers have even been documented collecting radiated tortoises not just for the pet trade, but also for their livers.
To make matters worse, people on the island are rapidly clearing land to make way for charcoal production and other short-term development uses which robs these tortoises of their natural habitats.
If you are thinking of keeping a radiated tortoise as a pet, ensure that it is not a wild-caught specimen. Ensure it comes from a reputable breeder who deals only in captive-bred tortoises. Please don’t contribute to the problem by supporting the wild-caught trade!
Are we about to see another tortoise species become extinct or can these creatures be saved in time? While there are several conservation efforts underway, only time will tell if humans can reverse the damage that we have done to the natural world.
By Candace, SaveTheReptiles.com