Authorities: Smuggler Caught Stealing Endangered Tortoises

Thailand captures smuggler who allegedly put an entire Madagascan species at risk.

Thai authorities have arrested a suspected smuggler and his accomplice for illegally removing 54 ploughshare tortoises from Madagascar.

The duo allegedly crammed the tiny animals into a suitcase that was then flown to Thailand, so they could sell the half-shell creatures to the exotic pet market.

The implications are bigger than they seem: This particular type of tortoise is critically endangered, and best guesses suggest there are just 400 or so left in the wild in Madagascar. This means the alleged smuggler may have captured well over 10 percent of the remaining population, placing the remaining animals at risk of extinction.

Mauritius, an island to the east of Madagascar, was the home of the Dodo, the sad poster child of extinction caused by humans.

All around the world, local biodiversity is at risk due to human interference, and even vanishing traditional farmland in developed nations is placing species at risk.

[Image: Flickr user Andrea Westmoreland]

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