Tortoises are one of the rarest animals on the planet, and they are critically endangered because people capture and sell them on the black market for a huge amount of money. They have huge shells that are supposed to be their shield from predators, but those shells are just not enough to protect them from humans who do everything for material wealth.
The ploughshare tortoises are considered the most threatened species of land tortoises because many of them have been captured to keep as pets, and their habitat is often turned into farmland. They live on the islands of Madagascar and feed on the leaves of short trees and grass. They are known for their high arching shells and beautiful spectral colors that range from light brown to golden, but because of poaching, they could very well be known today for their SKUs.
Environmentalists made a brilliant idea on how to save these tortoise and protect them from people who capture them. They draw graffitis on the shells of the ploughshare tortoise to make it less appealing to buyers.
Reports from CNN said, “Poachers sell the turtles to collectors on the black market for up to $50,000, as they make valuable pets for wealthy individuals, especially those in Asia.”
Founder and president of the Turtle Conservancy, Eric Goode, said, “The fledglings go for around $2,500 while adults can end up costing as much as $50,000. Their cost has a direct correlation with the fact that it takes a ploughshare tortoise twenty years to finally reach breeding age, and females produce a low quantity of eggs.”
Adult males scooped up by poachers on a daily basis does not help the endangered species’ already low numbers, which Goode estimates to be anywhere from 200–500 left in the wild.
Goode added, “Like coin collectors who want a mint coin, collectors want a perfect tortoise, so by defacing the animals, we make them less appealing to buyers.”
Environmentalists are carving the letters MG and a serial number onto adult ploughshares’ shells. They just tattoo the fledglings since they do not have thick enough keratin in their shells to withstand the procedure of carving.
Permanently marking an animal is a controversial issue for others. It’s like cutting off the horn of a rhino, which is not an ideal solution. Nevertheless, most agree that it is one effective way to keep buyers away.
Goode shared that the procedure is non-invasive and has worked in places like Burma. He explained, “The Burmese star tortoise was effectively extinct. All remaining tortoises were tattooed with a religious symbol, sacred to the Burmese people, which reduced the numbers poached.”