The Angonoka tortoise

The Forgotten "ivory"

The Angonoka tortoise is the most endangered tortoise in the entire world. They are found within a 30km radius inside the Baly bay National Park in north-west of Madagascar. Because of illegal poaching to feed the rising interest as a luxury commodity in Asia, they have almost gone extinct in the wild. With less than 220 individuals, the natural population of this species in the wild is so low, that they are almost categorized as functional extinct. This means that they are simply incapable of finding each other to reproduce.

Background history of the Angonoka Tortoise

The Angonoka tortoise, also called the Ploughshare tortoise is the largest living specimen of tortoise on Madagascar. The reason for the name Ploughshare, comes from the plough shaped projection from the front of the buttom shell(plastron). The males use the plough to tilt over other males in the fight for a female. The Angonoka tortoise is easily recognized for this special feature, but also their extremely domed yellow/tan colored carapace.

As mentioned earlier, they are only found within a very small area within the Baly Bay National Park in the Mahajanga province, found in the noth-west of Madagascar. Its a fairly large sized tortoise with males growing up to 40+ cm in length and a range of 7-18kg. Females are a bit smaller. The Ploughshare tortoise will first reach maturity around 20years of age on average.

The extinction of this species started over 900 years ago when sailors harvested them to to sell as meat in other harbours. Fast forward to our time, the species remain incredibly endangered with a approximately count of 600 animals left in 2000. Things have only turned south since. Bushfires, predation from invasive species, loss of habitat and an extremely high value for the illegal pet trade has driven this species to be one of the most endangered species in the world as of today.

In 1984 Lee Durell, together with Malagasy authorities started a conservation programme of this species to secure their future. In 1986 Durell takes the lead in establishing a captive breeding center within the Ampijoroa Forest station in Madagascar. This breeding programme was stocked with 20 adult animals that came from confiscations. The project hatched out over 600 babies, but were set back in 1996 when 75 Angonoka tortoises were stolen from the breeding center. This was a major set back for the release programme of the juvenile tortoises. In 2008 the Angonoka was finally listed as a critically endangered species by IUCN, and were now focussed on the illegal poaching of animals as the biggest threat to this species.

Unfortunately the illegal smuggling didn't stop here and in 2013, 54 juvenile Angonoka tortoises were seized in Bangkok airport - which is 5% of the wild population. The interest for this species in the exotic pet industry, especially in asia is still on the raising. Here they are believed to secure the owners a longer life and are showcased as luxurious commodities.

Fortunatly good news happened in 2015 where 100 juvenile Angonoka tortoises were released back into the wild, which is a huge milestone for the conservation of this species.

The threats are not over, the demand for the black market of this species is still high. We are therefore proud to be a part of the team along with Turtle Conservancy and Durell Wildlife Conservation Trust, to hopefully secure a future for this enigmatic and forgotten species.

So how does Forgotten Nature help saving the Angonoka tortoise?

In november 2020, Forgotten Nature have become a part of the Conservation project of the highly endangered Angonoka tortoise. Together with Turtle Conservancy & Durell Wildlife Conservation Trust, we are now a part of the the program to help the in-situ breeding projects of the angonoka tortoise, to prevent the extinction of the species. The goal is to eliminate the illegal poaching of the species, and to breed the tortoises can be released back into the wild.

In partnership with Turtle Conservancy

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Where does the Angonoka tortoise live?

Browse through the google maps beneath to find out!