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Open AccessArticle

Implications for Conservation of Collection of Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise as Pets in Morocco: Residents’ Perceptions, Habits, and Knowledge

1
Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Cinegéticos, IREC (UCLM-CSIC-JCCM), Ronda de Toledo, 12, 13071 Ciudad Real, Spain
2
Instituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados (IESA-CSIC), Campo Santo de los Mártires 7, 14004 Córdoba, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(2), 265; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020265
Received: 14 January 2020 / Revised: 4 February 2020 / Accepted: 5 February 2020 / Published: 7 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Ecology and Conservation)
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.
The trading and collection of wild animals as pets may be cause for concern regarding animal welfare and species conservation. These concerns can be exemplified by Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca), a long-living species whose use as pets is long established. The human dimension plays a major role in the wildlife for the pet collection, and is particularly important in countries like Morocco, where this might pose a threat to the conservation of the species involved. This study, which is based on a questionnaire survey (n = 480 participants), documents the fact that many people in Morocco keep tortoises as pets: 55% of the participants in the survey and over two tortoises/person. Importantly, most captive tortoises, particularly juveniles, had been collected directly from wild populations by their owners (42%, n = 264). In general, the tortoise owners had limited knowledge of their tortoises’ habits and requirements, although rural people were more likely to acknowledge that the tortoise is a wild and threatened species. Our study reveals that non-commercial collection is a common activity in Morocco that may threaten wild tortoise populations and hence species conservation, and it could have consequences regarding the welfare of the animals. We were also able to identify the profile of people towards whom education campaigns should be directed in order to reduce the number of tortoises collected from wild populations. Additional field research should also be conducted to quantify the impact of pet collection on wild tortoise populations. View Full-Text
Keywords: pet trade; questionnaire survey; social perception; Testudo graeca; Likert scale pet trade; questionnaire survey; social perception; Testudo graeca; Likert scale
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Segura, A.; Delibes-Mateos, M.; Acevedo, P. Implications for Conservation of Collection of Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoise as Pets in Morocco: Residents’ Perceptions, Habits, and Knowledge. Animals 2020, 10, 265.

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