By Kame Westerman, Velondriake MPA Project Coordinator. The unique spiny forest thicket of southwestern Madagascar is home to the critically endangered spider tortoise (Pyxis arachnoids), and the region of Lamboara – located in southern Velondriake,- boasts one of the most significant and densely populated areas. Poached in other parts of southern Madagascar for food, the residents of Lamboara consider it fady (taboo) to kill tortoises, and therefore the population has been relatively protected in the past. Despite this, carapaces have recently been found showing signs of un-natural death, raising concerns about the sustainability of this population.
With training and financing from an international tortoise expert, Velondriake community members and Blue Ventures are beginning a year-long project to record data on tortoises found on and near the island of Lamboara. In mid-October, an initial trip was made to identify the areas where data will be collected. Each expedition, local Lamboara community members and BV volunteers will search for tortoises and record data such as age, gender, and activity at the time of discovery. These data will be used to identify and track the population status and ultimately inform future conservation strategies.
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