A shocking discovery was made in Madagascar after police found 10,068 tortoises crammed into a two-story house, in what is being described as a “gruesome” act of poaching, reports NBC 7 San Diego.
The animals belong to an already endangered species known as radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata), and were found dying in a home in Toliara, a town that lies on Madagascar’s southwestern coast.
Earlier this month, police were alerted by the foul smell of feces and urine coming from the house. On April 10, they set out to investigate what was behind the dreadful stench. Upon arriving at the scene, the police discovered thousands of radiated tortoises packed into every room of the house.
No one knows how long the animals had been there, but it was clear that they had been left in utter neglect. Kept in horrifying, unsanitary conditions, the tortoises were struggling with dehydration, illness, and a severe lack of space, which hampered their access to food and water.
The police searched the house room-for-room and watched in disbelief as every corner of the home proved to be overflowing with radiated tortoises.
“You cannot imagine. It was so awful,” said Soary Randrianjafizanaka, a biology student at the University of Madagascar, Tulear, who volunteered to help with the tortoises.
“They had tortoises in the bathroom, in the kitchen, everywhere in the house,” she told National Geographic, mentioning that smell was “overwhelming.”
"You cannot imagine. It was so awful. They had tortoises in the bathroom, in the kitchen, everywhere in the house." https://t.co/NS1f3xSvVf
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) April 20, 2018
In total, the police found 9,888 live radiated tortoises and 180 dead ones. Although the vast majority of tortoises were rescued, 574 didn’t survive the appalling conditions of their captivity and died from dehydration and infection within a week of being found.
According to Knox News, Zoo Knoxville has sent herpetologist Stephen Nelson to offer assistance to the remaining tortoises. Nelson is travelling to Toliara on April 20 to help save the critically endangered tortoises.
Nelson is just one of a team of experts that will care for and foster the thousands of radiated tortoises rescued from the Madagascar home. The team is working together with the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), and will watch over the animals in the following two weeks.
THIS is what wildlife trafficking looks like. 10,976 critically endangered radiated tortoises were rescued during a massive poaching bust in Madagascar. Our experts have been dispatched to provide support and medical care/supplies. https://t.co/rVtrc2KPrJ #EndExtinction pic.twitter.com/hQ8gHdRnqC
— San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) April 19, 2018
“We were already caring for 8,000 tortoises in Madagascar — now that number has more than doubled overnight,” TSA president Rick Hudson said in a statement.
The animals have been transported to a wildlife facility located 18 miles north of the house where they were held in captivity.
The police believe the 10,000 rare tortoises were intended for illegal wildlife trafficking to Asia, where their shells are very sought after on the black market due to the ornate star patterns that adorn them.
The persons behind this act of poaching have not yet been identified, but an investigation by local conservation authorities is under way.