El Paso Zoo Keeper Luis Villanueva, is in Madagascar this month working with Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) as part of an effort to save more than 10,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises. Last month the El Paso Zoo answered a call for help dispatched to Animal Experts from Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
The tortoises were discovered in April by local police in a private residence in Toliara, Madagascar. The floors of virtually every room in the house were covered with tortoises that had no access to food or water. The tortoises have since been transferred to “Villages des Tortues,” a secure wildlife facility in Ifaty where conservation partners from around the world are headed to assist.
“The radiated tortoise is critically endangered due to poaching and deforestation. These magnificent animals can live up 180 years old and are some of the most beautiful Tortoises in the world, which leads to exploitation in the pet trade,” said Villanueva. Hundreds of the tortoises have already died from dehydration and illness.
Luis does not have much access to WiFi but the other day was able to send the following message:
Today we visited one of the TSA locations here in Antananarivo. Here they keep around 1800 tortoises that have been confiscated. Here are some pictures of the place.
After we visited the TSA facility we went to a crocodile farm. Here are some pictures.
Verreaux's Sifaka, an endangered species of lemur.
As soon as we hear from Luis again we will post new information and pictures here.
This is not the first time EPZ has sent staff to help an international cause. In 2016, EPZ worked together with other AZA Zoos to help hand rear baby Penninsular pronghorn antelopes in the El Vizcaino Biosphere Preserve in Baja California Sur, Mexico to create an insurance population for the diminishing species. “El Paso Zoo, as an AZA accredited zoo, demonstrates that its staff has acquired the experience needed to work with endangered species,” said Villanueva.
It is estimated that the radiated tortoise population in the wild has declined more than 80 percent in the last 30 years. There is a real chance they could be extinct in the wild in less than two decades.
About El Paso Zoo
The El Paso Zoo is a 35-acre facility that houses animals representing over 220 species, including critically endangered species. Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the El Paso Zoo celebrates the value of animals and natural resources and creates opportunities for people to rediscover their connection to nature.
About the Turtle Survival Alliance
The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) is an internationally recognized action-oriented global partnership, focusing on species that are at high risk of extinction, and working in turtle diversity hotspots around the world. The group was originally organized in 2001 in response to the rampant and unsustainable harvest of Asian turtle populations to supply Chinese markets, referred to as the Asian Turtle Crisis. Since then, TSA has evolved to respond to other endangered turtle species around the world with current projects or programs in Belize, Colombia, Europe, Madagascar, and throughout Asia. Today the TSA supports projects or programs – both wild and captive - that benefit 21 of the World’s 25 Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles. For more details on TSA’s programs, visitwww.turtlesurvival.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @TurtleSurvival.