Angonoka Tortoise (Madagascar Tortoise)

Angonoka Tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora)
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With less than 800 existing in the whole world, the stunning angonoka tortoise is one of the rarest species on earth. It is believed that this rare tortoise has a geographical range as tiny as just 25 sq. km (9.7 sq. mi).

This large tortoise with angulated shell goes by many names including the Madagascar angulated tortoise, Madagascar tortoise, ploughshare tortoise, and angonoka.

It is believed that these tortoises will go extinct in the near future if enough effort isn’t made to stop the poaching of these majestic tortoises in the wild and the destruction of their habitat.

Angonoka Tortoise Facts and Information

The ploughshare tortoise is a critically endangered species that can be found in a 25 sq. km (9.7 sq. mi) to 60 sq. km (23.2 sq. mi) area around Baly Bay, which is in the northwest of Madagascar.

Because of their extremely tiny population, there are laws (Madagascan national law and CITES Appendix I) against the poaching, and the transportation of members of this species.

The scientific name of the ploughshare tortoise is Astrochelys yniphora. The A. yniphora is one of the two species that make up the genus Astrochelys. The only other member of this genus is the radiated tortoise (A. radiata).

The genus Astrochelys is endemic to Madagascar and both species are critically endangered. The species also belongs to the family Testudinidae – the tortoise family.

The Astrochelys yniphora has a high domed carapace, which is golden brown in color and has growth rings on the scutes. The prominent design created by the growth rings makes for an attractive and striking shell – one of the main attraction for those who wish to illegally keep the A. yniphora as pets. The carapace length of male tortoises is 41 cm (16 in) on average, while the carapace length of female tortoises is 37 cm (14.5 in).

As you can tell, the males are substantially larger than the females. The rest of their body is brown in color. Although they don’t have teeth, they have strong powerful beaked jaws. 

As with most long-lived testudines, the exact lifespan of the A. yniphora is difficult to determine. In the wild, it is estimated that they live between 50 and 100 years. In zoos, they can grow as old as 188 years.

Angonoka Tortoise Diet

Ploughshare tortoises (angonoka turtles) are herbivores. In the wild, they eat fruits, vegetation, and feces of animals such as lemurs and bushpigs.

They prefer to eat shrub leaves but avoid bamboo leaves if they can. In fact, they have never been observed eating the leaves of living bamboo trees. They also eat tussock grass and the Bauhinia pervillei orchid tree.

The xx at the Honolulu Zoo in Hawaii is fed a mixed diet and browse on every other day. The mixed diet is made of vegetables including celery, and carrots; and fruits including sliced banana, apple, and orange. The browse is made of hau, dandelions, hibiscus leaves, flowers, and sweet potato vines.

Angonoka Tortoise Habitat

These terrestrial testudines prefer to live in the bamboo scrub forests found in the Northwest of Madagascar. The habitat of the angonoka tortoises, which is along the coast, is hot and semi-humid.

The scrub forest where they live has plant species such as Bismarckia, tussock grass/spear grass, Casaythra sp. (Liana), Clerodendron incisum (herb), Bauhinia pervillei (orchid tree), Alloteropsis semialata (grass), and the Chadsia grevei (shrub). Although they feed in the open, they prefer to hide in the dense thickets when not foraging.

Angonoka Tortoise Breeding

Angonoka tortoises reach sexual maturity at age 20. The mating season consists of the months of October, November, December, January, and February, with December and November being the most active months. The female lays about 5 clutches through the year with each clutch consisting of one to six eggs.

Like most tortoise species and turtle species, the sex of hatchlings is determined by incubation temperatures. However, these temperature ranges are unknown. Additionally, all hatchlings from the same nest have the same sex. Until the tortoise reaches maturity, the sex cannot be established.

Angonoka Tortoise Predation

The introduction of the African bushpig turned out to be extremely detrimental to the angonoka tortoises. These bushpigs hunt and kill the young angonoka tortoises. Also, the bushpig forage and eat their eggs. In addition, humans also hunt the tortoises for food as well as for the illegal trade.

Angonoka Tortoise Endangerment

Apart from the bushpig that hunts the angonoka tortoises, the illegal pet trade, as well as habitat destruction, has driven this species into near extinction.

Because of their low population growth rate, it takes ages for the wild populations to recover from drastic population plunges even with conservation efforts.

The species is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list. The estimated population of this species is between 400 and 770, and it is declining.

Ploughshare Tortoise (Angonoka Tortoise) Overview Video

Conclusion

With possible extinction over the horizon, efforts are being made to ensure that these gorgeous creatures don’t disappear. The Project Angonoka is a conservation project created in 1986 in an effort to save the angonoka tortoises.

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Madagascan Water and Forests Department, the World Wide Fund for Nature are the establishments working on this project. The project created a facility where these tortoises can be bred. As of 2004, the project had bred 224 tortoises.

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