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The Role of Local Taboos in Conservation and Management of Species: The Radiated Tortoise in Southern Madagascar

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Lingard, Marlene; Raharison, Nivo; Rabakonandrianina, Elisabeth; Rakotoarisoa, Jean-Aime; Elmqvist, Thomas
Journal: Conservation & Society
Volume: 1
Date: 2003
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/3368
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Africa
Subject(s): conservation
monitoring and sanctioning
indigenous institutions
Abstract: "The radiated tortoise, Geochelone radiata, is endemic to the semi-arid region of southern Madagascar. Despite formal protection by law since 1960 and listing in CITES since 1975, tortoise populations have been reported to be in rapid decline, mainly due to illegal harvesting for food and commercial trade. The Tandroy people, inhabitants of the Androy region, which covers approximately half the tortoise distribution range, do not, however, exploit the species. The Tandroy prohibition against tortoise consumption is expressed as a taboo or fady. The aim of this study was to document the narratives, rules and enforcement mechanisms linked to the taboo, and to assess the potential role of the taboo for the protection and management of the radiated tortoise. Interviews revealed that the Tandroy perception of the animal as dirtyunderlies the Tandroy taboo, although one informant suggested that the taboo once originated in notions of sacredness. Estimated tortoise abundances ranged from 20 tortoises per ha in an area with no harvesting to 0.6 per ha in an area where a significant proportion of residents were reported to violate the taboo. Infrastructure changes and increasing numbers of immigrants to the region are sources of new pressures on the tortoise."

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