Fourteen critically endangered tortoise have found a safe haven at Perth Zoo after attempts to smuggle them across international borders.

The Radiated Tortoises, native to Madagascar, were discovered in Hong Kong where they were confiscated by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) officials before being transferred into Perth Zoo’s care. It is the single largest transaction of this species into Australia.

Perth Zoo has expertise in breeding and caring for this rare tortoise. Once quarantine is complete, the Zoo will arrange for the movement of some of the animals to other Australian zoos as part of collaborative efforts to breed these critically endangered animals and secure a future for them.

Perth Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, Simone Vitali, said “Providing homes for animals which have been seized as a result of illegal wildlife trafficking is an important role for zoos, as often, due to biosecurity concerns they cannot be returned to their country of origin. Breeding genetically sound insurance populations is also important should the natural habitats of threatened species be at risk, which is the case for Radiated Tortoises.”

Due to their stunning shells, Radiated Tortoise are heavily impacted by the illegal wildlife trade and have been confiscated in numerous international wildlife seizures. “Wildlife trafficking is a global problem, it’s becoming more sophisticated and sadly we’re experiencing a spike in activity.”

“Second to habitat loss, it is the largest direct threat to many of the world’s most threatened wildlife,” said Simone.

“Perth Zoo is committed to saving wildlife and with other Australian zoos we have partnered with TRAFFIC, the international wildlife trade monitoring network. Jointly we have helped fund a Wildlife Crime Analyst position to strengthen enforcement and gather intelligence to strategically fight wildlife crime,” said Simone.

The funded position has been instrumental in identifying emerging international wildlife trade and has resulted in key arrests.

Radiated Tortoise are native to the island of Madagascar and the largest of the star tortoise. Feeding mainly on grasses, apart from the illegal wildlife trade, they’re critically endangered due to habitat loss, poaching and they are hunted for their shells which are often turned into ornaments.

Visitors are encouraged to visit Perth Zoo to learn more about this rare species located in the African Savannah or by booking a behind the scenes Scaly Mates tour.