Good luck out there sweet shell friends!
On #EndageredSpeciesDay the Knoxville Zoo shares their work to save the critically endangered Ploughshare tortoise as well as several other species including radiated and flat-tailed.
“What people don’t know about turtles and tortoises is that they’re the most endangered class of vertebras in existence. Over half of them are on the verge of some level of endangerment,“ said Michael Ogle, Curator of Herpetology and Ornithology at Zoo Knoxville.
Their work focuses on protecting rare species pf tortoises native to Madagascar all whose populations have been severely impacted by the illegal wildlife trade.
“Our tortoise collection has a lot of tortoises from Madagascar. We’re one of only two institutions in the US that have all four endemic species of tortoises,” said Ogle.
The radiated tortoise population in the wild has been cut in half during the past 17 years. Much of that is due to smuggling.
“Basically, they take the tortoise, put tape around it except for the head so they don’t move. You’re able to get several hundred in a suitcase and you pay off the right guy at the airport and can get them to Asia where they are sold illegally as pets,” said Ogle.
Ogle says an adult female radiated tortoise could sell for $10,000, and that the star-like pattern on their shells is what makes them so desirable.
Ogle has worked directly with officials in Madagascar to support anti-smuggling measures, He and the Zoo work to provide care information and funds to support the tortoises that are saved from trade and they have developed a successful breeding program in Knoxville as well.
Did you know:
-The Leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle living. and has the largest flippers (even compared to their body size).
-They do not have a hard shell, and have oily skin.
– They feed on jellyfish, often in cold areas, and help to control the jellyfish population.
-Adult’s do not have much predators, but many often die sue to garbage that resemble jellyfish (ex: plastic bags).
-Found in open ocean.
-Weigh up to 900kg/2000 lbs.
-Can dive deeper then any other turtle.
-Can stay under for up to 85 minutes
Other important facts about Leatherback Sea Turtles:
Status: U.S. – Listed as Endangered (in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future) under the U.S. Federal Endangered Species Act. International – Listed as Vulnerable in 2013 (facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.