World’s Rarest Tortoises on the way to new home in the United States

Nature Conservation

On 13th May 2015, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) transferred 10 Ploughshare Tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) rescued from the illegal pet trade to the Turtle Conservancy’s Behler Chelonian Centre (BCC) in the United States. The centre is part of ongoing efforts to conserve the species through captive breeding.

The Ploughshare Tortoise or Angonoka Tortoise, originates from only the Baly Bay region of Northwest Madagascar, and is the rarest tortoise in the world. It has a highly domed carapace (upper shell) with prominent concentric growth rings, and gets its name from a plough-like projection on the front of its lower shell.

The species is critically endangered and some studies estimate that there are only 300 individuals left in the wild. Their wild population is diminishing because of poaching, habitat loss and the most serious factor - illegal collection for the exotic pet trade. Paul Crow, Senior Conservation Officer of the Fauna Conservation Department of KFBG said, “There is a huge demand for this species on the illegal pet market in Asia as people are keen on keeping rare and endangered species. Illegal traffickers can make a large profit by selling these endangered tortoises. It is worrying that people are able to easily purchase the Ploughshare Tortoises through online platforms.”

Since 2009, the Wild Animal Rescue Centre of KFBG has received 40 Ploughshare Tortoises confiscated by the Authorities from wildlife trafficking. Authorized by the Hong Kong Government, KFBG has taken care of the tortoises while helping to seek the best conservation placements possible for them amongst worldwide conservation organizations. “These confiscated animals have represented a significant proportion of the entire world population of Ploughshare Tortoises and now luckily can become the basis of an ex-situ assurance colony for the conservation of this critically endangered species. Hopefully, at some point in the future we will be able to see these beautiful tortoises once again as part of a healthy population in their natural environment in Madagascar,” Crow added.

In 2011 and 2012, a total of 30 tortoises were sent to the BCC, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and North of England Zoological Society in the United Kingdom, plus Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands to be cared for as part of a globally coordinated breeding programme.

The illegal wildlife trade is a critical challenge which leads to the extinction of many species in the world. You can help to save endangered animals,

  • Do not purchase wild animal species
  • Do not consume wildlife for food or medicine
  • Do not keep wild animals as pets or household curios
  • Report any suspected illegal activities to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department on 1823 hotline or KFBG on 2483 7136.

Following their confiscation 10 Ploughshare Tortoises soaking in water to rehydrate shortly after arriving at KFBG

10 Ploughshare Tortoises ready to ship to the Turtle Conservancy’s Behler Chelonian Centre