Meet the ploughshare, the world’s most threatened tortoise

They are only found in a tiny area of Madagascar in the dry forests of Baly Bay National Park and get the name ‘ploughshare’ because of the plough shaped extension on the front of their shell.

It is their unique shell that makes them highly desirable to wildlife traffickers, who smuggle the tortoises out of Madagascar for the illegal pet trade.

At Jersey Zoo, you'll find our ploughshare tortoises in the Reptile and Amphibian House, where you can get a closer look at their golden-domed shells that make them so iconic.

Close up of a Ploughshare Tortoise's shell
Animal facts

Key facts about the ploughshare tortoise

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I'm found in Madagascar

Ploughshare tortoises live in the dry forest of Baly Bay in Madagascar.

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I'm a herbivore

Ploughshare tortoises eat grasses and shrubs but will also feed on the dried faeces of carnivores.

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I have a unique shell

Their large golden-domed shell makes ploughshare tortoises unmistakeable.


Ploughshare conservation begins


Released into the wild


Captive-bred tortoises

Durrell was the first organisation to successfully breed ploughshare tortoises in captivity

Our conservation work

What we're doing to help save the ploughshare tortoise

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Empowering local communities

Habitat loss due to agriculture, the trapping and trafficking into the illegal pet trade and community ignorance of the needs of local wildlife all caused dramatic population decreases of the ploughshare tortoise.
What we're doing to help
We launched Project Angonoka in 1986 to empower local communities to conserve the ploughshare tortoise and its habitat by providing education, employment and support in learning new skills. The local communities are encouraged to report any potential smuggling operations and take part in patrols of the ploughshare's habitat.
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Protection from poaching

Ploughshare tortoises are particularly desirable on the black market, selling for vast sums of money. Poaching for the illegal pet trade continues to be the leading cause of their population decline.
What we're doing to help
Anti-poaching patrols take place around Baly Bay National Park, where the small population of wild tortoises remain, and staff engrave the shells of tortoises to discourage poachers.
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Establishing a safety net population

With such a small wild population, that continues to be decimated by poaching, breeding is minimal and any wild juveniles are at risk of being stolen.
What we're doing to help
We were the first organisation to successfully breed ploughshare tortoises in captivity and we continue to breed tortoises at a breeding centre in Madagascar, where they are under the protection of armed guards. Releasing tortoises has been paused due to the continued threat of poaching, but the captive population continues to grow.

Meet Project Manager Henri Rakotosalama and learn about the plight of the ploughshare and the work we're doing to protect this tortoise and its habitat.

A Ploughshare Tortoise at Jersey Zoo

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