Notes from the Field: OKC Zoo's Liz McCrae Documents Tortoise Rescue Efforts in Madagascar




In April, over 10,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises were discovered by local police in a private residence in Madagascar. Nearly every room in the house was filled with tortoises without access to food or water. It is believed that the tortoises were collected for the illegal pet trade, likely for shipment to Asia where the tortoises’ highly-domed shell, featuring a brilliant star pattern, makes them incredibly valuable. The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), in partnership with more than 20 institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, including the Oklahoma City Zoo, are sending medical supplies, team members or funds to care for the sick or injured tortoises.

Joining the rescue effort from the Oklahoma City Zoo is Liz McCrae, veterinary technician. Liz is sharing notes from the field documenting her work treating the tortoises. OKC Zoo Animal Caretaker, Josh Lucas, previously joined the rescue efforts, documenting his journey here. In addition to sending personnel to help care for the rescued tortoises, the Zoo sent $2,300 in medical supplies and $5,000 from the Round Up for Conservation Emergency Fund to help TSA expand their facility in Madagascar to accommodate the rescued tortoises.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018:

I made it safely to Ifaty, Madagascar! We had a very long trip getting here... We were only able to get about two hours of sleep last night in Tana before we had to be back at the airport for our flight to Toliara.

Most of Team 3, the third wave of personnel from Zoos and other organizations across the globe, are here now - five of us flew in together from Paris. We have been able to meet up with Team 2, most of which leaves tomorrow.

We will be heading to the Tortoise Center tonight to get trained by Team 2. Two of the caretakes will head to the remote site in Itampolo tomorrow. There is discussion about potentially moving another 2,000 healthy tortoises there soon.  

Saturday, May 19, 2018

We had a couple of very long days and didn't finish until dark. We loaded 1,957 tortoises to send to the southern site at Itampolo!

Monday, May 21, 2018 

Today we cleared 615 animals and relocated them to the center in preparation for another shipment this weekend. We had some help from some folks from Utah’s Hogle Zoo today.

Friday, May 25, 2018

          Lots more exams today! We cleared 2,300 tortoises this week for shipment, and we're loading them tomorrow!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

        Today is our last day at the rescue center. Yesterday, we loaded up 2,300 tortoises for transport, which was very rewarding as we worked all of last week to identify and separate all of the tortoises for shipment. I think I, personally, handled 700 Radiated tortoises yesterday. 

For the full story, visit‚Äč. To support the radiated tortoise rescue efforts in Madagascar, donate to the Turtle Survival Alliance Foundation online at Additionally, the Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians (AZVT) has launched a fundraising campaign supporting the Turtle Survival Alliance’s rescue efforts. Every dollar donated through AZVT’s website will be matched up to $5,000! Click here to donate and check the box for “Other Amount – Conservation Donation.”  Donations can be made through PayPal or via a credit card.

Photo Credit: Rick Hudson, TSA


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