Utah’s Hogle Zoo helps rescue 10,000 endangered tortoises from poaching operation

TOLIARA, Madagascar – Utah’s Hogle Zoo worked with several rescue agencies after more than 10,000 critically endangered turtles were found crowded together without food or water in a private residence on April 10.

Pictures of the rescue of the radiated tortoises, a critically endangered species, show almost every inch of the house’s floors covered with the animals.

The tortoises had no access to food or water of any kind, the zoo reported.

The zoo has been fiercely dedicated to saving the radiated tortoise species from becoming extinct. To help the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) with rescue efforts, the zoo jumped in and sent a veterinary technician to help administer health care to the animals.

“I don’t think the word ‘overwhelming’ comes close to describing what the Turtle Survival Alliance is dealing with here,” said Rick Hudson, President of the TSA. “We were already caring for 8,000 tortoises in Madagascar, now that number has more than doubled overnight.”

Over 10,000 radiated tortoises were found in a home in Madagascar

It was unknown how long the tortoises had been in the house. Some arrests had been made, but local authorities were still investigating the incident. It was believed that the tortoises were possibly meant to be shipped to Asia as part of the illegal pet trade.

Utah’s Hogle zoo has worked closely with Madagascar since 2010, creating aid facilities that allow critical confiscation operations such as this to take place.

“We’re so proud of the work we’re doing in Madagascar,” said Christina Castellano, Vice President, Hogle Zoo, and conservation biologist with over 20 years of experience in Madagascar. “We have built these triage centers but the number or tortoises from this confiscation is so overwhelming that we have to invest more in building new housing, hiring additional staff and security guards and getting food for these animals.”

The zoo’s reptile keeper will be sent to the region to help Madagascar keepers learn proper husbandry and care for the tortoises.