While no one likes a nosy neighbor, there are times when other people’s intrusion can actually save the day. Such was the case recently with one home in Madagascar that was drawing a lot of negative attention from the surrounding community.
Nothing seemed odd about the building except one thing: it gave off a horrible stench that was not going away. The neighbors finally had enough, and they called police to the home. Upon arriving, officers had no idea they were about to stumble upon a heartbreaking scene…
In April 2018, authorities in Toliara, Madagascar, were called to investigate a house in the area. Neighbors had been making complaints about the residence, claiming that a mysterious—and overpowering—stink was emanating from the building.
Realizing that the source of the strange odor could relate to an animal intrusion—and could be dangerous—the police brought along several individuals from a local wildlife agency, including the chief herself, Soary Randrianjafizanaka.
Due to the political unrest in Madagascar, the police had no idea what they were going to find behind the doors of the two-story building. So you can imagine their shock when they broke inside and discovering a floor teeming with thousands of tortoises!
The horrible smell that was reportedly coming from the building was even more intense inside the house. The stench, Soary and her colleagues deduced, was from the urine and feces of these reptiles.
“You cannot imagine,” Soary began in an interview with National Geographic. “It was so awful. They had tortoises in the bathroom, in the kitchen, everywhere in the house.” It was, needless to say, a complete mess.
Soary and her team were so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of living creatures that they didn’t notice which type of the animal they were dealing with at first. Once they identified the reptiles, it added another twist in this already strange tale…
Soary and her team discovered that these were radiated tortoises, a species that was currently endangered! Not only that, but the team counted more than 11,000 of them struggling to survive in these foul conditions.
After calling in for reinforcements, Soary and her team managed to transport all of the radiated tortoises to safety. With the help of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), it took six trucks and dozens of trips back and forth to move them into a local animal reserve.
Tragically, not every tortoise made it out alive. More than 200 dead radiated tortoises were found in the house. Meanwhile, the living tortoises were cleaned up and treated for dehydrated at the sanctuary…
Even though buying and selling radiated tortoises is illegal in more than 180 different countries, poachers still hunt down the creatures for their beautiful shells. They also try to sell the tortoise meat on the black market.
Sadly, there are just three million radiated tortoises left on planet Earth. Studies also reveal that, in the past 30 years alone, their numbers have dropped by more than 75 percent.
These tortoises are being harvested at a rate that could wipe out the species. In fact, if something doesn’t change very soon, experts indicate that the radiated tortoise could be extinct in under 20 years!
Tragically, even after they were removed, another 300 of these rescued radiated tortoises lost their lives, either due to infections or severe cases of dehydration. Thankfully, the remaining tortoises were back on the path to wellness.
“I don’t think the word ‘overwhelming’ comes close to describing what the [TSA] is dealing with here,” stated a press release from the organization in April 2018. “We are in ‘an all hands on deck’ mentality right now.”
“Fortunately, due to our strong relationship with the zoo community, the TSA is well positioned to respond to crises such as this,” the press release continued. But there was still a possible downside…
“The support we continue to receive from the global conservation community has been incredible. And we are extremely thankful for the multitude of individuals and organizations that have come forward with donations and supplies,” said a TSA representative. “Yet, the long-term financial impacts to our Madagascar program is potentially crippling.”
Luckily, the people of Madagascar weren’t about to give up. Local zoos and other accredited facilities were happy to stand up and help take on the burden of caring for these radiated tortoises…
There was another silver lining, too: three individuals were arrested for this crime, including the person who owned the house where the tortoises were being kept. Two of the perpetrators people were even caught burying dead tortoises at the house!
That said, Soary and her team were still following leads—and this case was far from being considered closed. “I don’t know who this big boss is,” said Soary, “but we will not rest until we find out who is responsible for this scheme.”
As for the rescued tortoises, they would remain safe for now. They were all being nurtured back to a state of health, at which point the idea of releasing them back into the wild could be considered.
Thank goodness officials were able to uncover this scheme and help as many tortoises as possible—and it was all because of some very alert neighbors. Hopefully, justice will be served to the individuals responsible.
Share this post with your friends below!