Air France KLM Martinair Cargo (AFKLMP Cargo) has announced that it has worked with the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco to transport 46 juvenile tortoises to Le Village des Tortues in Noflaye, Senegal, as part of a population reinforcement project. This transfer is one phase of a three-year programme.

Since 2012, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco has been home to several African spurred tortoises (Centrochelys sulcata), the third largest land tortoise in the world. These herbivorous reptiles, from a breeding centre in Mali, were entrusted to Robert Calcagno, director-general of the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco, in order to educate visitors about the need to protect this endangered species.

The transportation of the tortoises to Senegal was enabled by the specialist services of AFKLMP Cargo, which facilitated the tortoises' journey from Monaco to Dakar via its hub at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. The programme includes management of the tortoises in quarantine within the Centre for the Protection of Turtles in Senegal -Village des Tortues, their introduction into the Koyli Alpha Nature Reserve in the northwest of the country, and their monitoring for a two-year period.

Six crates were specially designed to transport the 46 juvenile tortoises from the AFKLMP Cargo hub in Paris to Dakar on 12 December. Mathieu Fleisch, Vice President Product & Verticals for AFKLMP Cargo, explains, "Air France KLM Martinair Cargo is very sensitive to the protection of the environment and the preservation of endangered species. We were therefore delighted to join the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco in transferring the 46 African spurred tortoises to Senegal. We were proud to make our extensive network and our recognized expertise in the transport of live animals available for this operation."

The tortoises have been placed in an observation enclosure for six months, located in Le Village des Tortues in Noflaye, a conservation centre housed in the heart of a special botanical reserve.

At the end of the quarantine phase, the juveniles will be transferred to a fenced-off part of the reserve for one year so that they can acclimatize to living conditions in the wild. They will then be released in the reserve managed by the association, in accordance with the recommendations and directives of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) within the framework of wildlife reintroduction operations.

The tortoises will be monitored regularly by trained staff, who will analyze their growth and adaptation to the reserve. During this monitoring period, several education and awareness-raising campaigns will also be undertaken to involve local communities in the conservation project. "As with all our projects, beyond the biological objectives, we seek to raise public awareness of the causes we defend. Here, children from local communities will be trained and involved in the project," comments Olivier Brunel, project manager for the operation.

Due to AFKLMP Cargo's expertise in the transportation of live animals, the endangered tortoises are slated to thrive in their new environment. "Protecting animal species, both on land and at sea, and making them known to the general public is a major challenge for the future. By housing these spurred tortoises, now an endangered species, we have allowed them to reproduce while raising awareness among visitors of the need to protect them. The logical outcome was to work to boost the local wild populations," explains Robert Calcagno.

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