Wildlife conservation authorities raise their concerns as Madagascar tortoise trafficking reaches record-breaking levels in the first three months of 2013.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, Turtle Survival Alliance, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, Conservation International, Turtle Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and other wildlife conservation authorities are urging local authorities to take strict action against wildlife smuggling as Madagascar tortoise trafficking has reached record breaking levels in the first three months of 2013.

According to a report released by these groups, in the first three months of 2013 alone, over a thousand radiated and ploughshare tortoises have been confiscated from smugglers. Late March, a 38-year-old man was caught smuggling more than 10 percent of the world's entire tortoise species.

Owing to Madagascar's continuing political crisis since 2009, wildlife smugglings have become even more prominent on this island country because of weak governance and rule-of-law. Moreover, erosion of cultural protection of the tortoises for short-term financial gain has also contributed to a sharp decline of the tortoise species.

"These tortoises are truly one of Madagascar's most iconic species," said James Deutsch, WCS Executive Director for Africa Programs. "This level of exploitation is unsustainable. Unless immediate action is taken to better protect the wild populations, their extinction is imminent."

The Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups have urged the officials to take strict action against illegal trafficking. Increasing the number of guards in remote areas to the north where the tortoises are still found could help in keeping a check on wildlife smugglers.

Eric Goode, founder of the Turtle Conservancy, said: "While the seizure in Thailand was the largest single seizure of ploughshare tortoises in history, the TC has documented over 250 Ploughshares in the trade in East and Southeast Asia. According to INTERPOL, only 10 percent of smuggled wildlife is actually seized, suggesting that over 2000 animals have entered the illegal trade into Asia alone. If trade level persists, it will likely lead this species to extinction."