Denver Zoo workers to help rescue thousands of rare tortoises found in Madagascar home

DENVER — Two Denver Zoo workers will help rescue more than 10,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises in Madagascar after they were found living in their feces and urine inside a home.

Local police were alerted last month that a home was housing the rare tortoises, which are only found in Madagascar, said Denver Zoo senior vice president for animal sciences Brian Aucone.

The tortoises were found wall to wall in every room with no access to food or water.

Rescuers confiscated 10,976 radiated tortoises, according to Turtle Survival Alliance.

Several hundred tortoises died from dehydration, malnutrition and illness and only 9,760 were still alive two days after the raid.

Turtle Survival Alliance reached out to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help in the rescue efforts.

The Denver Zoo is sending keeper Max Maloney, and carpenter Sean Ploysa to Madagascar on Thursday. They will return on June 2.

Aucone said the goal is to release the tortoises back into the wild.

Radiated tortoises are endangered species. There were about 10 million of them a decade ago. Since then, their totals have dropped to 4 million to 5 million because of loss of habitat and poachers.