Endangered Tortoises Are Being Defaced on Purpose… to Protect Them

by Sabrina Elfarra

Some of the rarest tortoises in the world are a hot commodity on the black market for their unique golden shells which can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

In an effort to obstruct poachers, conservationists have made the bold move to carve into the shells of the tortoises, protecting the animals by making their domes less attractive.  The branded shells also make it easier for authorities to trace them if they are stolen.

“Endangered tortoises and turtles are facing a real threat, and we’re hoping that this will be an effective tool to keep them safe,” Eric Goode, the founder and president of the Turtle Conservancy told ABC News today.

Years of hunting have caused near extinction for many tortoise species, so sanctuaries and zoos are using identification marks, including laser inscribing, tattoos and engraving to hinder poachers and discourage collectors from paying a great deal of money for the animals.

Since the conservancy began putting the branded tortoises back into the wild in 2011, the shells have not come up in the black market, which officials believe is a good sign.

The Turtle Conservancy’s Behler Chelonian Center in Ventura County, Calif., has been working with ploughshare tortoises among others which originate from Madagascar. Their goal is to engrave the shells of both the ploughshares in captivity as well as those living in the wild…

(read more: ABCNews)

photos by The Turtle Conservancy

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