Extremely rare tortoise rescued from smugglers rehomed in the UK
A Ploughshare Tortoise - one of the rarest animals in the world - that was confiscated by Hong Kong Customs has been sent to a new home at the Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom in December.
It was part of a consignment of 57 tortoises confiscated by Customs at the airport in 2019 and placed under the care of Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden Wild Animal Rescue Centre.
In 2019, a smuggler secreted 57 live tortoises inside his check-in suitcase. They were illegally smuggled out of the Comoro Islands off the East African coast.
KFBG said that when it received this tortoise, its front left leg and some claws on the hind left leg were missing, which may have been due to a birth defect or injury when very young. Three support rollers had been attached under its lower shell or plastron to assist in balance and walking.
This tortoise – thought to be a female – has now joined an important European conservation program for the species.
“The Ploughshare Tortoise is settling into its new home in the UK and hopefully will produce offspring in the future and eventually contribute to the wild survival of the species, which is presently under severe threat,” Gary Ades, Head of the Fauna Conservation Department of KFBG, said.
The Ploughshare Tortoise is one of the rarest animals on Earth, with likely fewer than 100 remaining in the wild.
The species can only be found in a small part of Madagascar. It is listed under the highest protection category of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, prohibiting all forms of international commercial trade.
According to KFBG, there are only 29 Ploughshare tortoises legally outside of Madagascar in conservation programs. It is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
On the other hand, they are sold at exceptionally high prices on the black market as there is a high demand for this scarce animal in the pet trade.