Home       About us   Issues     Search     Submission Subscribe   Contact    Login 
Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
Users Online: 952 Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size

Year : 2003  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 223-246

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

1 Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
2 Department of Biology and Plant Ecology, University of Antananarivo, Antananarivo B.P. 101, Madagascar
3 Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Antananarivo, BP 564 Antananarivo 101, Madagascar

Correspondence Address:
Thomas Elmqvist
Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

Rights and Permissions

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 'dirty' underlies 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. An official acknowledgement of the fady custom and the transformation of this institution for the purpose of conservation and sustainable management of the tortoise may considerably reduce the current high costs of enforcement by formal institutions. The tortoise may constitute an important economic source of revenue if local communities are granted rights to a regulated small-scale trade for the pet market based on locally controlled farming of tortoises. Such actions may provide economic incentives for further transforming and building effective institutions for sustainable management. However, a local institutional strategy also needs to be nested with institutions across scales, for example, at regional and national levels,assisting in controlling harvest and trade.

Print this article     Email this article
 Next article
 Previous article
 Table of Contents

 Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Citation Manager
 Access Statistics
 Reader Comments
 Email Alert *
 Add to My List *
 * Requires registration (Free)

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded1016    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal