Critically Endangered Tortoises Seized at Airport

Over 50 Ploughshare Tortoises and 21 Radiated Tortoises were seized at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Both species are critically endangered. Authorities arrested two adults – one a Thai national and the other was a woman from Madagascar. Both species of tortoise are native to Madgascar and the women had flown from her home country to Bangkok with a stop first in Nairobi.

Image Credit: Hans Hillewaert
Image Credit: Hans Hillewaert, Wiki Commons

There may be as few as 400 wild Ploughshare Tortoises left in the world and their population is decreasing. One of the main reasons for the dramatic decline is illegal collection for the pet trade. They have even been stolen from a successful captive breeding program for illegal sale. Another reason is the burning of their natural habitat in order to clear land for cattle grazing. Because of human threats, the Ploughshore Tortoise is on the brink of extinction. The last remaining wild individuals live in northwestern Madagascar in bamboo-scrub habitat.

It would appear especially tragic, if human consumption for the pet trade should drive them into extinction, because it is essentially a unnecessary luxury consumer behavior to buy them illegally. In other words, owning one is an entirely selfish, irrational, destructive experience.

Radiated tortoises are also native to Madagascar and like the Ploughshares are in danger of extinction for the same reasons: illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction. Left to their own, Radiated tortoises are extremely long-lived – one reportedly walked this planet for over 180 years.

Globalization is often talked about in positive terms only, because it has been said to be a shared economic boon. However, we see in cases like illegal wildlife trade that it can also have devastating effects ecologically. Furthermore, ecology itself sometimes is left out of the discussion, as if humans are the only significant species on the planet.

In cases of illegal wildlife trade for pet sales, one wonders if animal hoarding is involved. If that is so, the underlying mental health issues need to be addressed to help the hoarders stop their destructive behavior.


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