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Ploughshare Tortoise

Ploughshare Turtles are a type of tortoise native to Madagascar. They can be found on Madagascar’s island and the Aldabra Atoll, a large atoll off the coast of Africa near Madagascar.

Many ploughshares are endangered. They can’t live in other places because their home is destroyed.

There is one auction with Ploughshare Tortoises for sale, but they cost more than they do when they are not endangered. They are threatened because their homes have been logged, and the homes are humid and have many trees.

Most ploughshare tortoises stay near the eastern coast of Madagascar. They live 40 to 50 years in the wild but 100 years or more as pets. These species are threatened because their homes have been lost.

Ploughshares eat about 90% of Madagascar’s tree seeds, leaves, and fruit from 22 different plant species. They can live in humid habitats with many trees.

Ploughshares are bigger than most other tortoises. They reach a size of about 20 inches long, including a three-inch tail. They have longer front claws on their feet compared to other tortoises. They also have a beak-like mouth used to scrape off small plants and moss from branches.

  • Status: Critically endangered 
  • Known as Ploughshare Tortoise, angonoka, angonoka tortoise, Madagascar tortoise, or Madagascar angulated tortoise.
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: 600.


Ploughshare Tortoise looking at the camera

Ploughshare herbs and shrubs may also be consumed when breeding is occurring. Male Ploughshare tortoises are smallish land tortoises with high-domed, brown shells measuring around 40 centimeters long.

Males weigh over 10 kilograms, while females average 8.8 kilograms – the sexes can often be distinguished visually by size. One of the lower shell’s plates, or scutes, projects out and up between the front legs, vaguely resembling a ploughshare and giving the species its name.

The tortoises live on land and feed on various plants, with grasses forming most of their diet. The reptile seems to favor the types of grass that grow in bamboo scrub.

They will eat dead bamboo leaves but seem to avoid the fresh shoots and leaves completely. Herbs and shrubs may also be consumed, and the tortoises will eat the droppings of mammals in their area.

When breeding occurs, the male ploughshare tortoises “joust” with their plowshare scales, attempting to hook the plowshare under the other tortoise’s shell to flip him over. The males also ram each other with enlarged scales and can be quite aggressive when vying for females.

The female buries up to seven eggs per breeding season, leaving the young to hatch at the start of the rainy season and fend for themselves. Sexual maturity is not achieved for two decades, an unfortunate trait for a highly endangered animal.

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Side view of Ploughshare Tortoise

The Ploughshare tortoise is found only in sixty square kilometers in north-western Madagascar, around Bally Bay.

The terrain and flora here are mixed, including mangrove swamp, savannah, bamboo scrub, and deciduous forest. Most of the region is within 50 meters of sea level. The tortoises prefer dense bamboo thickets.

Ploughshares can be found on Madagascar’s island and the Aldabra Atoll

The Ploughshare is a tortoise endemic to the southwestern region of Madagascar. Ploughshare Tortoises can be found on Madagascar’s island and the Aldabra Atoll, a large atoll off the coast of Africa near Madagascar.

Ploughshares are endangered because their homes have been logged

Ploughshare Tortoises are endangered, as they can’t survive in other places because their homes have been destroyed. This is why they are endangered; they need constant moist conditions.

Ploughshares have been threatened by logging- many of their homes have been logged, which is why it’s so important that we do what we can to help them survive.

The Ploughshare resides in a humid habitat with many trees. It needs a moist habitat with plenty of plants and trees, standing water for drinking purposes, and nesting locations.

Ploughshares eat about 90% of tree seed.

close up of Ploughshare Tortoise

The Ploughshare tortoise is a herbivore. Its diet mainly consists of fruits and plants, but it is also known to eat the feces of lemurs and bushpigs in the wild.

They love shrub leaves, but they will if they can avoid bamboo leaves. They have never been observed consuming the foliage of living bamboo trees. They also consume tussock grass and Bauhinia pervillei orchid tree seedlings.

Ploughshares are endangered species.

In addition to the bushpig that preys on Ploughshare Tortoises, the illegal pet trade and habitat degradation have driven this species almost to extinction.

Because of their slow population growth, wild populations take a long time to recover from severe decreases, even with conservation measures.

The turtle species is considered critically endangered on the IUCN red list. This species’ population is believed to be between 400 and 770 individuals, with a declining trend.

Ploughshare tortoise facts

Ploughshare tortoises are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and in Appendix I of CITES, which requires all international trade to be monitored and regulated.

They are found only on the island of Madagascar and used to live in an area south of the Betsiboka River. This species is one of the most beautiful tortoise species, colored with rich browns and golds, which give them their name due to their resemblance to medieval plow blades.

See Related: Environmental Organizations in Africa


Top view of Angonoka or Ploughshare Tortoise


Extinction is looming large in the Ploughshare tortoise’s future and may occur in no more than a decade. The species cannot replenish itself rapidly due to its slow reproductive cycle.

Human hunting is one major pressure on this tortoise, but the bush pig is doing even more damage to these reptiles.

People and prey introduced this swine species to the eggs and young of the ploughshare tortoise. Madagascar farmers often carelessly start more or less uncontrolled fires to clear brush for agriculture, and these fires can spread, destroy ploughshare tortoise habitat, and kill the animals themselves.

The illegal global pet trade also generates a high demand for captured tortoises, usually small, young individuals needed to build the population.

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Conservation efforts

Firebreaks created along the fringes of the tortoises’ home range are among the more successful conservation measures undertaken, greatly reducing the impact of runaway agricultural fires.

A captive breeding program has successfully produced hundreds of tortoises despite dozens being stolen during a major break-in by robbers who then sold the animals for pets.

A park is also planned in the Baly Bay area, but the prospects for the ploughshare tortoise remain bleak, and it may be too late to salvage the species.

See Related: Conservation vs. Preservation


front view of  of Angonoka or Ploughshare Tortoise

If you know of or are part of an organization that works to conserve the Ploughshare Tortoise, please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.


The Ploughshare Tortoise is one of the rarest and most endangered tortoises in Madagascar.

It lives on land, eats plants, and breeds during the rainy season when conditions are favorable for reproduction. Due to its long life span, which can be up to 50 years or more, it has a slow reproductive cycle. It’s only found in an area with mixed terrain that includes mangrove swamps, savannahs, bamboo scrub, and deciduous forest.

The Ploughshare Tortoise’s numbers have been dwindling because hunting by humans is one major pressure on this species, but even more so from bush pigs introduced by people who live near them as well as fires set off by farmers clearing brush for agriculture destroying habitat areas where they live and killing Ploughshare Tortoises.

Its conservation efforts have been made recently but to no avail.


What is Ploughshare Tortoise?

The Critically Endangered ploughshare tortoise is found only in Madagascar, and its range may be as little as 25² kilometers! One of the rarest tortoises in the world, this huge and beautiful tortoise is one of the most endangered.

For a long time, the animal population has been decreasing. Hunting, forest destruction, and being taken for the pet trade are all to blame. These factors have caused the number of individuals to decrease even more recently.

The number of mature pandas is declining. Collectors have taken far too many. If this continues, the panda will become extinct in the next generation or within 40-50 years.

This species is currently on the endangered list. It’s extremely protected and has many limitations. In 2005, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust started a program to safeguard this animal with 224 juvenile founders from 17 families.

How long is Ploughshare Tortoise’s life span?

The Ploughshare Tortoise is believed to live only between 40 to 50 years in the wild. However, some individuals may live up to 100 years as pets. Their metabolism slows their development, but it is a trade-off for their longevity. They require little food compared to other turtles. A male Ploughshare may be less than two years old yet already have the size of an adult female.

What does Ploughshare Tortoise eat?

Ploughshare tortoises are vegetarians, so they eat leaves, flowers, succulent plants, and grasses. Their strong sense of smell makes them very picky about what they eat. They also will never hesitate to forage for food, even if it takes them far from their water source.

Where does Ploughshare Tortoise live?

Ploughshare tortoises naturally inhabit dry savannahs, open grasslands, and thorny scrubland in the southern half of Madagascar. Their populations reached their nadir in the mid-20th century due to habitat destruction for settlements, fuel wood collection, and agricultural purposes: today, there are no Ploughshare Tortoise populations left outside protected areas. Consequently, this species is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List under criterion A2c+3d+4 (vulnerable with a decreasing population) and is listed in CITES Appendices I and II.

Ploughshare Tortoises have been successfully reintroduced to the wild from captive populations in Antandroy, Mantadia, and Andohahela National Parks (in the regions of Toliara, Anosy, and Atsimo-Atsinanana). However, their survival rates in the wild are still slim. They are also bred in specialized Ploughshare Tortoise breeding centers in Brittany, France, and North America.

Ploughshare Tortoise at risk?

Ploughshare tortoise is at risk due to habitat degradation, new roads, and settlements encroaching on its natural habitat. The native people of Madagascar also poach it for food and illegally trade it for traditional medicine, a practice that may become necessary because of its endangerment.

The Ploughshare Tortoise is vulnerable to extinction. It is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Rare Endangered Species (IUCN). However, its listing may be upgraded if it does not receive protection soon.

About this situation are climate change maps projecting the normal Ploughshare Tortoises weather pattern, which has changed dramatically in response, leading their habitats to shrink dramatically due to drought, making drought periods longer with less rainfall. These species populations are one of Madagascar’s most endangered species.

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