Case Study of Rare, Endangered Tortoise Highlights Conservation Priorities for Present, Future World Wildlife Days

Ploughshare tortoise looking directly at the camera. (Credit: University of Maryland Associate Professor Meredith Gore).

Though wildlife trafficking has been effectively disrupted since the first World Wildlife Day—established 50 years ago today (March 3, 2023) via the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora—a newly published case study on one of the world’s rarest tortoise species, the ploughshare tortoise, highlights how much room for improvement still exists. In a new paper published in PNAS, University of Maryland Associate Professor Meredith Gore and her coauthors—Babson College’s Emily Griffin, Bistra Dilkina and Aaron Ferber from the University of Southern California, Michigan State University’s Stanley E. Griffis, the University of Alabama’s Burcu B. Keskin, and John Macdonald from Colorado State University—detail a 2018 effort to map ploughshare tortoises’ location within and around Soalala, Madagascar; nearby villages; known trafficking pathways and transit routes; and the amount of trafficking risk associated with each of those areas. The group of approximately 50 stakeholders also shared more qualitative information that might play a role in poachers’ trafficking process, such as paths of cultural and spiritual significance, tides’ influence on decision-making; and where poachers met to plan their activities.

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