The rarest tortoise in the world. Possibly fewer than 400 left in the wild. It’s hard to wrap my brain around it. The incredible thing is that I now have the opportunity to wrap my hands around them. My zoo made international news last week with the announcement that they are the recipients of four of eight Astrochelys yniphora (ploughshare tortoises) confiscated last year.
The ploughshare tortoise is endemic to the island of Madagascar, as are many of the tortoises our zoo is already successful with. They’re from the northwestern corner of the country, and are rapidly disappearing due to poaching for food and for the pet trade.
They look enormous, don’t they? They’re not. While they will one day top 100lbs, these particular animals weigh half a pound or less.
They possess a unique body shape. Their carapace (top shell) has a cartoonish roundness that I find endearing. With proper humidity and diet, the shell should remain like this. The common name comes from a weird protrusion on the front of males. It’s used to flip rival males over during battles over females. Amazing video here. Whether the youngsters we have are males are females is unknown at this point. It will be at least 10 years before they are old enough to breed. Working with tortoises usually means thinking in the long-term.
Welcome to my corner of the world, little friends. I have high hopes for you!