Ploughshare Tortoise Confiscation Update

Just before the Holidays, Turtle Conservancy’s Managing Director and veterinarian, Dr. Paul Gibbons, returned to Bangkok, Thailand together with representatives from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Richard Lewis and Tsanta Fiderana Rakotonanahary from Madagascar. The purpose of this visit was to teach a seminar on managing the health and husbandry of large groups of confiscated turtles and tortoises, and to monitor the status of the confiscated Ploughshare Tortoises that we assisted with in May 2013. Noted turtle and tortoise veterinarian Dr. Nantarika Chansue, Director of the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Center, once again facilitated our return visit. The Andrew Sabin Family Foundation and Turtle Conservancy Board Member Michael Zilkha provided funding to make this effort possible.

The seminar was presented to an audience of government wildlife officials and graduate students at Chulalongkorn University. Dr. Gibbons gave presentations on cutting-edge turtle and tortoise husbandry and medicine, Mr. Lewis provided an update on the current plight of Madagascar’s tortoises, and Ms. Rakotonanahary lectured on the emerging threat of today’s global animal trafficking networks and her experiences managing confiscations of large numbers of tortoises.

The current status of the remaining Ploughshare Tortoises is at once disturbing and encouraging. Unfortunately, seven more of the confiscated tortoises are reported to have died since we visited in May, leaving just 21 of the 54 confiscated tortoises. All of the remaining tortoises appear to be in excellent health and living under very good husbandry conditions. The managers and staff at the government-run wildlife conservation center are making a big difference, and are now providing excellent chelonian husbandry that meets the needs of the animals. We are working closely with the Director of Wildlife in Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation to expedite the legal proceedings so these Ploughshare Tortoises can be relocated to a permanent home. We also forged a new relationship with Nancy Gibson of Love Wildlife Foundation, a much-appreciated partner on the ground in Thailand.

The government of Thailand is dedicated to captive breeding and conservation of its native wildlife, and they invest a respectable amount of resources toward building world-class conservation programs. The Thai government is not, however, interested in housing and breeding exotic wildlife like the thousands of turtles and tortoises they confiscate each year. So today, their wildlife breeding facilities are overwhelmed with confiscated animals and they are requesting more human and financial resources to provide these animals with the care they need as they await the conclusion of the legal proceedings of the smugglers who put them here. In the last two months of 2013 alone, Royal Thai Customs confiscated nearly 1000 threatened turtles and tortoises as smugglers tried to pass them off as regular luggage.

With your support, the Turtle Conservancy is poised to make a real difference in the lives of these confiscated animals. Your donation goes to help confiscated animals and works to curb their illegal poaching worldwide.

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