Ploughshare tortoise

With fewer than 100 individuals alive, the species could go extinct in a matter of just a few years

NTF30

This rare tortoise is renowned for its high, domed shell, which is edged with a distinctive plough-like extension at the front, giving the species its common name. This evolutionary adaptation is thought to assist in moving obstacles or vegetation while the tortoise forages.

Primarily terrestrial, the ploughshare tortoise is found in the bamboo scrub and deciduous forests of the Baly Bay area of northwestern Madagascar. It is a herbivorous reptile, and its diet consists mainly of grasses, leaves, and fruit that fall to the forest floor, which provides the necessary nutrients for its growth and shell development.

The rarity and striking appearance of the ploughshare tortoise have, unfortunately, made it highly sought after in the illegal pet trade. Its status as one of the most endangered and most expensive tortoises in the world has only heightened its appeal to collectors, placing further strain on the already dwindling wild populations.

The habitat of the ploughshare tortoise is under constant threat from anthropogenic activities. Slash-and-burn tactics used to clear land for cattle grazing have devastated vast swathes of their natural habitat, leaving the tortoises vulnerable and exposed. This loss of habitat has dire implications not only for the tortoises but also for the entire ecosystem they help to maintain.

In addition to habitat destruction, the introduction of non-native species, such as the bushpig, poses a significant threat to the Ploughshare Tortoise. Bushpigs are known to hunt adult tortoises and consume their eggs and young, devastatingly impacting the tortoise’s already critical numbers.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Madagascar
<400
CR
2008

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No