Recently we reported a dramatic spike in poaching of Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) in Madagascar. Unfortunately, the smugglers didn't take a break for the holidays, and on Christmas Day 555 juvenile tortoises were confiscated at the Ivato International Airport in Antananarivo. Four suitcases full of tortoises had passed through the baggage scanner and had been cleared by Customs! However police agents noticed something unusual and decided to check the bags again. A Chinese national was arrested, however his accomplices were not apprehended. Seven of the tortoises were dead and others were very weak and in need to rehabilitative care. They are now being cared for by the Turtle Survival Alliance staff in Tana.
This case illustrates well the level of corruption that is rampant among Malagasy authorities at the airport. Countless thousands of tortoises, including the rare and critically endangered Ploughshare Tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora), are likely leaving the country weekly because of lax enforcement practices.