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Nussbaum, R. A., & Raxworthy, C. J. (2000). Commentary on conservation of “sokatra,” the radiated tortoise (geochelone radiata) of madagascar. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, 2(1), 6–14. 
Added by: Sarina Wunderlich (30 Jun 2012 22:01:40 UTC)
Resource type: Journal Article
BibTeX citation key: Nussbaum2000a
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Categories: General
Keywords: Astrochelys, Astrochelys radiata, Habitat = habitat, Madagaskar = Madagascar, Schildkröten = turtles + tortoises, Testudinidae
Creators: Nussbaum, Raxworthy
Collection: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
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Testudinidae The radiated tortoise Geochelone radiata of the desert regions of Southwestern Madagascar, known as “sokatra” among most Malagasy, has gained much attention recently as a result of increasing and highly publicized smuggling of this commercially valuable species. Sokatra have been protected by Malagasy law since 1960 and have been classified as a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix I species since 1975. Sokatra also are protected to some extent in the four reserves where they are known to occur. In the central part of their range, on the Mahafaly and Karimbola Plateaux, sokatra are considered fady (taboo) by the Antandroy and Mahafaly people who live in this area, and they generally are not killed for food in this region. They are, however, killed and eaten by the Vezo and Antanosy people who largely occupy the northeastern and southeastern limits of the species’ range. It has been suggested that this taboo is largely responsible for the survival of the species, and there is worry that the taboo may be breaking down as a result of human famine and intermingling of tribal peoples, many of whom do not consider the flesh of sokatra to be forbidden. In addition to the possible erosion of taboo barriers, there is strong evidence of increased illegal trade in sokatra, increased deterioration of its habitat, and increased local consumption of them for food, all of which are reasons for concern. Given the conspicuousness of this species in nature, its popularity among tortoise fanciers, and concern for sokatra among conservationists, there is surprisingly little published information about them in their natural environment that would allow for objective evaluation of their status. Especially needed are intensive studies of the life history and ecology of sokatra, with special attention paid to determining their limiting environmental requirements. It will also be important to examine the degree to which zebu (cattle) and goats compete with sokatra for food and to determine the intensity of zebu and goat grazing that can be tolerated without causing local extinction of sokatra. We have no reason to believe that the sokatra is threatened with extinction over the next 20 years, just as it obviously was not threatened over the past 23 years, although classified as Appendix I during that period. We recommend that downgrading the sokatra to CITES Appendix II might be beneficial to the survival of the species if certain conditions are met, such as careful controls on the number of legally exported animals. We also strongly recommend the establishment of additional nature reserves on the Mahafaly and Karimbola Plateaux in the central part of the range of the sokatra, both for survival insurance for this species and for other rare and endemic species that occur in this area.
Added by: Sarina Wunderlich  
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