Being cold blooded, these reptiles can be hard to spot on hot, sunny days. In the desert-like spiny forest, radiated tortoises spend much of their day moving from hot to cool places to moderate their body heat. But after a heavy rain, the tortoises become much more active. In fact, one traditional Mahafaly story states: Tortoises bring the rains—God sends rains, not for the humans, who can look after themselves, but for the animals, like the tortoises, who need the rain and God’s help. When there are no more animals, there will be no more rain.
The radiated tortoise eats plants (even cacti!), fruits, and lemur feces.
Several times each year, females lay between 2 and 12 eggs. Depending on the temperature, the eggs take anywhere from 69 to 231 days to hatch. Hatchlings are about 1.5 inches long and will live around 50 years, but some have reached ages of 100 or more years.
Some of My Neighbors
Fossa; Spider Tortoise; Ring-tailed Lemur; Verreaux’s Sifaka; Grandidier’s Mongoose
Population Status & Threats
Like many of Madagascar’s turtles and tortoises, the radiated tortoise is considered critically endangered. Although traditionally Malagasy cultures revere the tortoise, and it is taboo for local people to touch them, outsiders hunt adults for food and capture juveniles for the pet trade. The burning of the tortoise’s spiny forest home for charcoal production is also threatening the species.
Unless major conservation measures are enacted, radiated tortoises will continue to crawl steadily toward extinction. Recently, WCS global staff co-sponsored a tortoise conservation workshop in Madagascar’s capital city Antananarivo. The participants recommended the creation of a “tortoise brigade” to monitor and control illegal trade. Confiscated tortoises could be reintroduced to areas where populations have been decimated. With subsequent enforcement, opportunities for eco-tourism could follow. Other efforts by WCS-Madagascar to protect this species include habitat conservation, captive breeding, and environmental education programs. Involving local people will be an essential component of any future conservation effort, helping to revitalize Madagascar’s traditions that once protected tortoises. Learn more about WCS work in Madagascar.
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