I am so, so proud of my zoo and my readers.This post left you with the good news that we had successfully raised enough money to buy furniture for the school in Madagascar. Thank you to everyone who donated and shared links. Together, we helped a village.
Originally posted on Knoxville Zoo Blog!:
Michael Ogle, our assistant curator of herpetology here at Knoxville Zoo, is kind of a big deal in the world of tortoise conservation, although he is far too modest to ever admit it. He’s been a key part of our success breeding some of the rarest tortoises in the world, often making us the first zoo to do so. He is particularly knowledgeable when it comes to species found in the country of Madagascar, which led to the invitation from the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to travel to southern Madagascar last month to work with some of his Malagasy counterparts to help locals care for confiscated tortoises.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest factors in the demise of the critically endangered spider and radiated tortoises is the illegal pet trade (these tortoises are highly sought after by collectors in Asia) and the fact that they are considered a delicacy by some more affluent members of Malagasy society. And to add yet another peril, they are increasingly experiencing habitat destruction due to mineral mining in Madagascar. These tortoises just can’t get a break.
Fortunately for them, there are people like Michael who want to help ensure a future for these guys, and one of the goals of his recent trip, (this is his second), was to teach basic husbandry to the team of police and forestry service employees, who, inadvertently, have found themselves de facto tortoise keepers due to the large number of confiscated tortoises they have intercepted in thwarted attempts to smuggle them out of the country for the pet trade. (For every animal that survives the illegal trip out of the country, by the way, there are hundreds that do not.) But the goal is to return every intercepted tortoise back to their native range, hence the need to care for them until they can be successfully transported and returned. Here’ s Michael (tall guy with a sunburn in the middle of the back row) during one of their husbandry workshops.