The Madagascar spider tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides), one of southern Madagascar’s endemic and iconic species was recently upgraded to ‘Critically Endangered’ status on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List for Threatened Species. This small and intricately patterned tortoise is through to be facing risks to its long term survival as a result of habitat destruction and poaching for local consumption as food, in addition to being illegally exported to support the exotic pet trade.
The team, led by wildlife biologist Ryan Walker, has just completed the second field season of a three-year project to extensively survey the historical range of the species to establish the status and vulnerability of the last remaining populations of this species.
After two field seasons and five months of continuous fieldwork the team has now surveyed about 70% of the species’ historical range. Results show that the species is facing severe pressure from habitat destruction as a result of conversion of land for agriculture and charcoal production within this region.
Walker explains: "The results of our work highlight the precarious state of this remarkable species, found nowhere else on earth. Populations are becoming dangerously small and increasingly fragmented across much of their historical range as a result of human pressures.
"The future of the spider tortoise now hangs in the balance; without effective management of poaching and habitat destruction in the very near future, this extraordinary animal may soon disappear forever."
The team is working closely with WWF Madagascar who are integrating the results into the management of Madagascar Protected Areas Expansion programme and also Blue Ventures, with the aim of establishing a number of community-lead conservation initiatives for these rare tortoises.
Full details of the research findings can be found here.
The spider tortoise research team, March 2010
Madagascar’s critically endangered spider tortoise, Pyxis arachnoides
For more information contact:
Based in Antananarivo, Madagascar: Telephone +261-343-133-987