New Discovery in France – Customs officials in France have seized 170 baby tortoises taped up and hidden in the secret compartment of a crate while in transit at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
The tortoises were destined for Laos in Southeast Asia, customs officials said Monday.
The rare reptile species are known as “radiated tortoises” and found only in Madagascar, customs officials said. The one-of-a-kind pattern on their shell case makes them precious for collectors.
The baby reptiles, 15 of which had died, were discovered in a crate carrying sea cucumbers on December 14. The officials added that “particularly unsuitable conditions of transport,” was the cause of their death.
Those that have survived have been transported to Tortoise Village in France’s southeastern Var region.
The centre’s director, Bernard Devaux, said, “We put them in a warm place and cleaned them with disinfectant,” added that the tortoises, which can live up to 100 years, “are considered the most beautiful tortoises on the planet,” which can be sold for $10,000 in New York or Tokyo.
The tiny tortoises, which weigh only 20g (0.7 ounces) and measure up to four centimeters (1.5 inches), will be kept in France for a few years. They are too frail to stand a second international flight to return to Madagascar.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the tortoises as critically endangered. IUCN estimates that they might die out in the next 50 years due to habitat loss and the international wildlife trade.