On April 10, nearly 11,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises were discovered by local police in a home in Toliara, Madagascar. With no access to food or water, the animals were in poor condition, and likely were collected for sale on the illegal pet market in Southeast Asia. The Madagascan government was in dire need of assistance to triage and care for the tortoises, and called upon Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) for help. Although TSA manages several rescue centers in Madagascar, they needed additional aid to save and rehabilitate such an enormous number of animals, and reached out to fellow Association of Zoos & Aquarium (AZA) members to join the rescue mission.
“As an organization dedicated to protecting wildlife, Denver Zoo has the resources and technical expertise to help care for these critically endangered animals,” said Senior Vice President of Animal Sciences Brian Aucone. “We manage our own field conservation programs and have the ability to apply the same skills and experience we use to care for our animals at the Zoo to support wildlife all around the world.”
In addition to providing funding to TSA, Denver Zoo is joining other AZA institutions, including San Diego Zoo and Utah’s Hogle Zoo, in mobilizing staff to assist with the effort in the hopes the tortoises will be released back into the wild. Sean Ploysa, one of the Zoo’s carpenters in the maintenance department, and Max Maloney, a keeper and reptile expert in Tropical Discovery, will utilize their respective skills and experience to provide medical care and construction of housing for the tortoises. They depart for Madagascar on Thursday, May 17 and will return on Saturday, June 2.