Angonoka tortoise: can she still be saved?

Astrochelys yniphora is listed in Appendix I of the Washington Convention and is considered critically endangered by the IUCN Red List

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Angonoka tortoise: can she still be saved?

Astrochelys yniphora is listed in Appendix I of the Washington Convention and is considered critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. Since 2005 its range has been protected within the Baly Bay National Park. It is a herbivorous species, which prefers the leaves and shoots of Bauhinia and Terminalia.

The breeding season runs from January to May and each brood is made up of 1-6 eggs. The current range of this species is restricted to an area of ​​no more than 60 km² in the Baly bay region in north-western Madagascar.

The area is characterized by the presence of a dense bamboo forest, adjoining the dry deciduous forest on one side and a dense mangrove on the other. It has a light brown domed carapace. The plastron has a gular scuto that projects forward between the front legs.

It has a light brown domed carapace. The plastron has a gular scuto that projects forward between the front legs. The Baly Bay region is made up of savanna, mangrove swamps, and dry deciduous forest. They make use of bamboo-scrub habitat which is made up of different types of shrubs, savanna grasses, bamboo, and open areas with no vegetation.

In 2016 poaching intensified, including a foiled attempt to raid the captive breeding center. In 2016 poaching intensified, including a foiled attempt to raid the captive breeding center. On 20 March 2016, the Custom officials at Mumbai airport seized 146 tortoises from a mishandled baggage of a Nepal citizen.

This bag was said to belong to a transit passenger, who arrived from Madagascar and flew to Kathmandu leaving this bag behind. Out of the 146 tortoises, 139 were radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) and seven were angonoka tortoises, both critically endangered tortoise species of Madagascar.

Two radiated tortoises were found dead with broken shell. The principal threats to the species are believed to be fires started to clear land for cattle grazing, and collection for the pet trade. The tortoise has a restricted distribution, likely a result of past collection for food, the expansion of agriculture, and accompanying fires.

The angonoka tortoise is often captured to be sold in the international pet trade. Though some enforcement of restrictions on illegal trade is successful, including the confiscation of the illegally obtained tortoises, they remain in incredibly high demand for the global pet trade. This is a major threat to the tortoises remaining in the wild.