Critically Endangered tortoises, raised in captivity, breed in the wild for the first time26/04/2012 21:53:03 Durrell reaches crucial milestone in the battle to save the rarest tortoise in the world
April 2012. The discovery of two baby ploughshare tortoises born in the wild to parents bred in Durrell's conservation breeding programme provides hope that despite huge challenges the fight to save the world's rarest tortoise can be won.
There are probably as few as 500 adult ploughshare tortoises, or angonoka in Malagasy, left in their natural range, the bamboo scrub of Baly Bay in north-western Madagascar. Historically the main pressures on the ploughshare were habitat loss and introduced species, but in recent years the rise in poaching for the illegal pet trade outside of Madagascar has threatened to send the angonoka to extinction.
Durrell has been working for 25 years to save this species by reducing pressures to the remaining wild population and its habitat. Early successes included the establishment of Baly Bay National Park and the empowerment of local communities to protect habitat from bushfires. A core component of Durrell's efforts was the establishment of a captive breeding programme that would act both a safety net and the basis for a reintroduction programme.
The tortoises were released as sub-adults and it has taken them a few years to reach maturity and so it only now that we are seeing the first generation of tortoises to be born from animals released from the programme into the wild.
Weigh just 30 grams
Dr Durrell said: "We have waited a long time to see baby ploughshare tortoises born in the wild from our released animals and we can only hope that they will continue to flourish. The Madagascar habitat that is their home is a tough one - there are bush pigs, buzzards, a harsh climate and poachers to contend with - but they are healthy and strong and we believe they stand a good chance. They are the first of what we hope will become a brand new population of tortoises helped by our successful conservation breeding programme."