NEW YORK, April 7 (UPI) — An international team of biologists says Madagascar’s radiated tortoise is rapidly nearing extinction due to intensive hunting for its meat.
The Turtle Survival Alliance — part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Gland, Switzerland — and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York predict unless drastic conservation measures take place, the species will become extinct within 20 years.
The researchers said they recently concluded a field survey in southern Madagascar and found the once-abundant tortoise has disappeared from the area. Local residents reported armed bands of poachers had taken away truckloads of tortoises to supply open meat markets.
“Areas where scores of radiated tortoises could be seen just a few years ago have been poached clean,” said James Deutsch, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Africa Program. “Back then, one could hardly fathom that this beautiful tortoise could ever become endangered, but such is the world we live in, and things can — and do — change rapidly.”
Some scientists liken the rate of hunting of radiated tortoises to the hunting pressure on American bison that occurred during the early 19th century.
Once considered one of the world’s most abundant tortoise species numbering in the millions, the tortoise is now ranked as critically endangered.
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