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    Why Conservationists Are Defacing Endangered Tortoise Shells

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    Geo Beats

    by Geo Beats

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    In an effort to protect rare endangered tortoises from being sold for high prices on the black market, conservationists are defacing the prized shells with identification numbers.

    In an effort to protect rare endangered tortoises from being sold for high prices on the black market, conservationists are defacing the prized shells with identification numbers.

    The protection measures are necessary because the tortoise shells are worth thousands of dollars on the black market, and the carvings not only decrease their value, but it is also a way for authorities to track the turtles if they are stolen and sold.

    The Turtle Conservancy’s Behler Chelonian Center located in Ventura County, California has been working to mark the 360 ploughshare tortoises in captivity and the 300 estimated to be left in the wild.

    Their method of conservation is being embraced all over the world, from the Singapore Zoo to star tortoises in Myanmar.

    Dr. Paul Gibbons, the Managing Director of the Turtle Conservancy's Behler Chelonian Center said: “It probably doesn't feel comfortable for the tortoises, but we don't drill deeper than the keratin layer of the shell..As long as we don't hit the bone of the shell beneath the keratin layer, the tortoise is okay. I believe the period of discomfort is worth it to save the animal's life.”

    The engravings will last for their lifetime, which can be as much as 160 years.