We all have those nightmare neighbor stories, but this one may take the cake. In Toliara, Madagascar, neighbors, and locals had noticed a horrible smell coming from a building. The smell coming from the building was so bad that no one dared to go up to the building and see what was inside.
Soary Randrianjafizanaka, Madagascar’s head of the environmental agency, finally felt that something needed to be done about the stench. Since she was unsure of what she might find, she had local police and other employees of the environmental agency escort her to the building.
Soary obtained the necessary legal papers to enter the building, and so they entered the building. Upon opening the door, the stench was like a slap in the face. When they surveyed the scene in front of them, they saw several thousand radiated tortoises. Radiated tortoises are endangered, and they believe these animals were being used to trade on the black market.
In an interview with National Geographic, Soary said, “You cannot imagine, it was so awful.” She also said that “They had tortoises in the bathroom, in the kitchen, everywhere in the house.” The stench was so strong because the floor was covered in urine and feces from the tortoises. After going through the entire house, Soary and the team she had with her found 9,888 tortoises still alive, and 180 tortoises that were already dead.
After being removed from the home, the tortoises were put into six trucks and brought to an animal sanctuary. Animal rescuers at the sanctuary had to work around the clock to take care of the tortoises and to take them to Turtle Village, which is 18 miles away, for them to recover.
Veterinarian Na Aina Tiana Rakotoarisoa spent weeks helping these tortoises. Many were undernourished and dehydrated. Others had infections from being stuck in their own urine and feces. Despite Na Aina’s, and her teams, heroic measures to save all of the tortoises, 574 died because of the neglect they had suffered.
When authorities arrived at the house, two men who were burying tortoises who had passed away were arrested for their part in the smuggling. It is also known that a woman owns the house, although it is unknown if she is involved in the smuggling or not. Although they are happy to have caught these two criminals, Soary admits that there must be more people involved, saying, “We don’t know exactly who the big person is, but we know there’s a big boss.”
Rick Hudson, President of the Turtle Survival Alliance in the United States, is helping with the rescue efforts. He says that the smaller tortoises were likely going to be smuggled out of the country, and the larger tortoises would have been used as breeders.
According to National Geographic, “…taking radiated tortoises from the forests is illegal in Madagascar, and a treaty signed by 182 countries and the European Union bans commercial trade of the species.” Unfortunately, as long as there is a market for these tortoises, criminals will continue to illegally breed and smuggle them around the world. Hopefully, the good guys can keep bringing these smugglers down and rescuing these animals.