Endangered African tortoises make trek home from Monaco

Sulcata Tortoise
(Photo: Wikipedia)
NOFLAYE, Senegal — After a grueling trip by air and road, several dozen endangered African tortoises groggily poked their heads out of their shells to take a look at their ancestral homeland.اضافة اعلان

Forty-six tortoises born and raised in captivity in Monaco have been brought to Senegal as a first step to returning to the wild.

They are African spurred tortoises — a species that inhabits the southern rim of the Sahara.

Known by the Latin name of Centrochelys sulcata, they are the world’s third-largest tortoise species.

Some tortoises in captivity can weigh nearly 100km and live as long as a century.

Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the species is under pressure from trafficking and overgrazing.

There are “at most” 150 African spurred tortoises currently living in the wild in Senegal, said Tomas Diagne, director of the African Chelonian Institute, a conservation group.

Within 30 years, they could die out, leaving only specimens living as pets or in private breeding farms, he said.

“If I were a tortoise, I wouldn’t want to live or be born in West Africa, or Africa, period,” he said.

The 46 tortoises that traveled from Monaco’s Oceanographic Museum to the Tortoise Village of Noflaye, about 35km from Senegal’s capital Dakar, are all youngsters — the oldest are only eight years old.

Their parents -- six tortoises, which stayed behind in Monaco — were a gift to Prince Albert II in 2011 from former Senegalese president Amadou Toumani Toure.

After quarantine, the young tortoises will “learn the ABCs” of life in the wild for a few months, said Diagne after their arrival on Tuesday.

Once they have mastered survival skills like finding their own food and digging out a burrow, they will be transferred to a nature reserve to the northwest.

At first, they will live in a fenced-off area for their protection. Later, the fence will be removed, and they will be on their own.

“Fauna is always leaving Africa, always being exported,” said Diagne. “It is very rare for it to come back.”

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