Implications for Conservation of Collection of Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise as Pets in Morocco: Residents’ Perceptions, Habits, and Knowledge
Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Cinegéticos, IREC (UCLM-CSIC-JCCM), Ronda de Toledo, 12, 13071 Ciudad Real, Spain
Instituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados (IESA-CSIC), Campo Santo de los Mártires 7, 14004 Córdoba, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 January 2020 / Revised: 4 February 2020 / Accepted: 5 February 2020 / Published: 7 February 2020
The trading and collection of wildlife for pets is one of the main threats for the conservation of some species worldwide. Assessing the human dimension of it is essential to improve our understanding of its drivers, which may help inform the design of effective species conservation strategies. We address this issue using the Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca) as a case study. This species has sharply declined in its native range, tortoise trade and non-commercial collection for pets being some of the main threats. In fact, both uses have been documented in southern Europe and northern Africa, although this species has been protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1975. Our study, which was based on a questionnaire survey, (i) demonstrated that many people in Rabat city (Morocco) and surroundings keep tortoises as pets (55%; n = 480), most of which had been collected directly from wild populations, and (ii) highlighted the limited ecological and biological knowledge of tortoise owners (mainly of those living in the city of Rabat) on the species. Our findings evidence how both the sociological context and the role of consumers/harvesters play a major part in this problem with international projection. We discussed deeply how tortoise non-commercial collection might affect its conservation and welfare, and recommended appropriate actions that focus on strengthening collection bans.