In Madagascar, there are several endemic species, but all are endangered. In the South, two species are enfeoffed by the arid area: the Spider Tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides) and the larger Radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata). The latter can reach up to 15 kilograms and has a magniﬁcent dark brown shell streaked with golden lines, hence its’ popularity with amateur collectors. Although classiﬁed in the 1st annex of CITES, the Radiated tortoise is exported worldwide and very sought after.
Therefore, in 2003, the SOPTOM created a Tortoise Village in Madagascar (near Ifaty) less than an hour away from the southern seaport of Toliara in partnership with the local association: Association de Sauvegarde de l’Environnement, ASE (Association for Environmental Protection). The park is spread over 35 hectares (86 acres) to accommodate the tortoises seized on the illegal market. The tortoises brought from public ofﬁcials are placed in the Village’s enclosures and nurseries. They are cared for and fed before being released into the wild following a governmental accord.
At Ifaty, our actions are centered on the care and maintenance of the tortoises, but we also try to educate the public (malagasy and foreign) as much as possible to modify the popular image of these species. This Tortoise Village also has a role in the touristic and cultural development in this isolated southern region of Madagascar which is largely affected by poverty.
Scientiﬁc programs are also developed, centered on the reproduction of the Radiated tortoise, or on sub-species of the Spider Tortoise. The center is open year-round and is directed by a group of Malagasy scientists. It also receives a certain number of volunteers.
Our goals are always: accomodate, protect, educate and make aware.