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Tortoises Are Being Defaced In Order To Save Them From Poachers

An initiative to deter poaches from selling the endangered ploughshare tortoises on the black market has lead to a unusual strategy.

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Conservationists at the Turtle Conservancy’s Behler Chelonian Center in Ventura County, Calif., have been purposely defacing the endangered ploughshare tortoise, ABC reports.

Defacing the shells helps to deter poachers by making the tortoise shells, which go for tens of thousands of dollars on the black market, less attractive. It also helps conservationists keep track of them.

Since the practice of defacing shells began in 2011, these turtles' shells haven’t turned up on the black market. It’s estimated that there are only about 100 to 300 ploughshare turtles left, according to Eric Goode of the Turtle Conservancy.

Engraving the shell isn’t comfortable for the tortoise and can sometimes be painful, so conservationists are careful not to drill into the bone of the shell.

Al Seib/Los Angeles Times / MCT

Paul Gibbons (left), with assistance from Armando Jimenez, uses a drill tool to deface the golden domes of two ploughshare tortoises in Los Angeles.

But it's small price to pay to save these adorable faces!

Al Seib/Los Angeles Times / MCT

Darcy Gamble of the Turtle Conservancy's Behler Chelonian Center in Los Angeles touches Daphnia, a rescued tortoise, while talking about ways to reduce their value on the black market.