Some 150 rare tortoises are to be returned to Madagascar by French customs, who seized thm in December while they were being smuggled to Laos. The reptiles needed several months of intensive care after being transported hidden in cases of sea cucumbers.
Managers of the Village des tortues (Turtle Village) in the south of France issued a triumphant statement announcing the repatriation on Tuesday.
“The animals are now in the best of shape and have gained 40-60 per cent in weight,” the statment said.
French customs seized 170 baby radiated tortoises (Astrolechys radiata) at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport on 14 December after finding them rapped in sellotape and concealed under the false bottoms of cases transporting sea cucumbers to the south-east Asian country of Laos.
About 15 of them had died because of their unsuitable transit arrangements.
The tortoises, which live in the forests of southern Madagascar, are an endangered species and their sale without a permit is strictly forbidden.
Their lifespan can be as long as 100 years.