knoxville news
knoxville news knoxville daily sun lifestyle business knoxville sports travel knoxville classifieds knoxville jobs knoxville legal notices knoxville yellow pages smoky mountains contact facebook twitter linkedin rss entertainment knoxville advertising

Zoo Knoxville herpetologist travels to Madagascar, assists in wildlife trafficking rescue​

  zoo knoxville

KNOXVILLE – Zoo Knoxville herpetologist Stephen Nelson traveled to Madagascar to assist with an unprecedented wildlife trafficking crisis.

On the night of April 10, 2018, 10,976 critically endangered radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) were confiscated from a single residence in the city of Toliara on the southwestern coast of Madagascar. Nelson was part of the team of experts assisted the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) with medical triage, care and housing of the seized tortoises for two weeks. In the days since the seizure, hundreds of tortoises died from dehydration, malnutrition and illness.

The tortoises were transferred to a secure facility where triage assessments were underway. The rescue effort, spearheaded by the TSA, was part of a global response from accredited zoos including Abilene Zoo, Bronx Zoo / Wildlife Conservation Society, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Dallas Zoo, Dickerson Park Zoo, Georgia Aquarium, Fort Worth Zoo, New England Aquarium, Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, San Diego Zoo Global, Shedd Aquarium, Tennessee Aquarium, Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center, Tulsa Zoo, Utah's Hogle Zoo, and Zoo Atlanta.

Zoo Knoxville is one of the top zoo’s in the world for the breeding and husbandry of Malagasy tortoises. Zoo Herpetology Curator Michael Ogle currently serves as the coordinator and Stephen Nelson as the studbook keeper for the Radiated Tortoise Species Survival Plan, a collaborative program of accredited zoos around the world working to save these tortoises from extinction.

The tortoises were likely collected for the illegal pet trade, possibly for shipment to Asia, where the tortoises’ domed shell with a striking star pattern make them highly sought-after. If left unchecked, the rate of illegal trafficking of this species will result in its extinction in the wild in the next 15-30 years.

“This is an overwhelming situation the Turtle Survival Alliance is dealing with. Zoo Knoxville is committed to taking action against the illegal wildlife trade that is putting so many species on the verge of extinction. We will be actively involved in supporting the TSA for the duration of this crisis,” said Zoo President and CEO Lisa New.

Currently, the best way for the public to assist in the rescue effort is to make a tax-deductible donation to the Turtle Survival Alliance Foundation at

For more information on Zoo Knoxville, please visit Zoo Knoxville at

Published May 9, 2018

knoxville daily sun Knoxville Daily Sun
2018 Image Builders
User Agreement | Privacy Policy