Madagascan flat-tailed tortoise
There is a conservation emergency facing the world’s tortoises and turtles - one of the most serious to any living group of animals. The threats they face come from habitat loss and degradation, as well as collection for the exotic animal trade and the insatiable Eastern food and traditional medicine markets. Chelonians all have very slow rates of growth and reproduction, and therefore they have very little hope of recovering from this crisis unaided.
The Madagascan flat-tailed tortoise is known locally as kapidolo (ghost turtle) because it is often found around tombs in forested areas, and is currently one of the most threatened of all the world’s tortoises. The kapidolo is a small forest-dwelling species found only in a small area of western Madagascar, where it is under severe danger of extinction as a result of deforestation caused by ‘slash and burn’ agricultural practices, charcoal burning, oil exploration and collection for the international pet trade.
Durrell has kept the flat-tailed tortoise at its headquarters in Jersey since 1990, when a number were collected from the wild on Gerald Durrell’s last expedition to Madagascar. The tortoises are very hard to find and study in the wild; therefore more had to be learnt about their habits by studying them in captivity. However, the species is notoriously difficult to keep in captivity and breeding has proved extremely tricky. Indeed, Jersey is currently the only European institution to have bred the species.
Research into improving the breeding success rate is ongoing, as Durrell's team of expert herpetologists in Jersey continues to collaborate with Durrell's overseas team in Madagascar, as well as other breeders across the globe.