Emergency : TORToisES iN DANGER !

FACING THE RAPID DECLINE OF ENDACTIC TORTOISES OF MADAGASCAR, HISA IS JOINING THE BERENTY RESERVE TO CREATE A RECEPTION AND REHABILITATION CENTER FOR TORTOISES THAT ARE VICTIMS OF POACHING!

CONTEXT

The radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) and the spider tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides), are endemic species of Madagascar, protected by national regulations since 1960 and listed in Appendix I of CITES since 1975. They face increasing threats: private individuals who exploit them as pets, poaching  for local consumption.

Once considered one of the most abundant tortoises in the world, with an estimated population of 12 million (in 2000), the radiated tortoise, an iconic species on the island, is now critically endangered by the IUCN Red List, and could disappear within the next 20 years.

It is urgent to establish a rapid, comprehensive and effective conservation solution!

The Berenty reserve, created in 1963, and managed by Claire De Heaulme – Foulon and her family, owners of the site, is located in the southeast of Madagascar, in the Anosy region, 90 km from the city of Tolagnaro.

The domain includes about 1,000 hectares of protected forest, two tree nurseries for reforestation activities, and a 3-hectare area dedicated to tortoise protection.

Scientists from around the world have been visiting the Berenty Reserve for research purposes. The lemur studies led by the primatologist Alison Jolly for almost 40 years have made Berenty an internationally renowned reserve.

In terms of conservation, it should be noted that the Berenty Reserve is home to some of the last remnants of southern gallery forest and the natural habitat of endangered lemurs. The reserve is home to Lemurs catta, Propithecus verreauxi, Eulemurs Ruffifron & Collaris, Microcebus murinus, Microcebus griseorufus and Lepilemur leucopus. As well as 102 species of birds, 46 species of mammals … including bats among which Pteroptus rufus with a colony which varies between 700 and 1800 individuals in the dry season.

Claire De Heaulme – Foulon (left) et Perrine Crosmary (right).

OBJECTIVE :

The reserve, located in the geographical range of these two species, is already home to 3000 tortoises and local authorities now wish to allocate a further 10 000 radiated tortoises, seized as a result of trafficking networks. Our goal is to create a real conservation center, with the missions to rehabilitate and reintroduce tortoises back in the forests, monitor the reintroduced populations, protect them against poaching, and to establish various conservation programs, educating both tourists and locals to the importance of tortoise preservation.

OUR MISSIONS :

  • The fight against trafficking: rescuing  tortoises seized by the  local authorities, dismantling the illegal trade.
  • Nursing tortoises: tortoises will be housed in an area adapted to their physiological and behavioral needs. They will be protected by guards, well-kept and chipped.
  • Reintroducing tortoises: when considered fit, they will be released in a suitable and protected environment (Berenty Forest). Follow-up of reintroduced populations will be carried out by local and international researchers.
  • Education and raising awareness: an educational program will be set up on the reserve and in neighboring schools to raise awareness among tourists and local communities about the conservation of Madagascar’s endemic tortoises.

Réhabilitation

A 3.6 hectars plot has been made available for the creation of a park to accomodate and rehabilitate turtles. This park is located on the edge of the forest and near the Lodge of Berenty, in order to ensure increase surveillance of the site.

Development works on the plot began in 2016 with the reforestation by the plantation plant species, all from the reserve nursery. These spaces are made up of typical plants of Androy, flora species of thorny forest, to recreate the natural habitat of turtles.

A fence made of prickly pears (Opuntia ficus-indica) without thorns, important part of the diet of captive turtles, has also been put in place in order to have part of their food resources on sita, and thus, limit movements of vehicles for feeding when the turtles will be on the rehabilitation site.Since 2019, we have continued our preservation efforts building fences all around the area where we will welcome the turtles to protect them from potential risks of poaching.

Réintroduction

Once the reception and rehabilitation center buildt, we will manage a plot of forest belonging to the reserve, to reintroduce the turtles to their natural environment.

To do so, an assessment of the habitat (accomodation capacity, available food resources, forest structure, etc.) will be necessary in order to determine the plot best suited to the needs of each species, and the number of turtles it is possible to release on each of the plots. We wish to maintain the balance between the habitat and the animals introduced. With this in mind, we want to carry out a study on the environmental impact before making any reintroduction.