The Abandoned Home
In the small quiet village of Toliara, Madagascar, there was a house that no one seemed to live in.
The neighbors never saw anyone enter or leave, so they figured the owners were no longer living there—that is, until they began to smell a terrible aroma everywhere in the neighborhood…
Because it seemed to be everywhere, no one could tell exactly where it was coming from.
Eventually the neighbors began to talk about the smell and were finally able to pinpoint the source: the abandoned home.
To Call the Police, Or Not to Call the Police?
Not knowing what to do, as they didn’t want to get anyone in trouble, they began to discuss their options. They could call the police, but what would they say? “Hey, this house smells. Could you arrest the owner or make them clean it?”
This is where the neighborhood actually started to pay attention to the house.
The closest neighbors began to notice that people were actually going in and out of the house, but never during the day. All of the neighbors were shocked to know that someone could stand to go into a house that stank so badly.
Knowing someone was actually there, the neighborhood came together and voted to call the authorities on the smelly house.
Bringing in a Team of Experts
Although investigating smelly homes was an unusual request, the authorities showed up to look over the house. Not knowing what to expect, as this was their first call about a house being too stinky, they decided to bring in a team of experts to make sure they were able to cover all their bases.
The police, a medical examiner, a biologist, and a wildlife expert were all in attendance to see the wretched-smelling house.
Confirmed: It Reeked
Immediately, all of the experts could tell why the community were ready to call in the authorities. The smell was overpowering.
Unfortunately, no one could tell exactly what it was though, so they prepared themselves for the worst. What they were about to find though was something none of them was prepared for.
They Made Their Way Inside
The outside of the house looked normal, so it was obvious that they needed to go inside to find the cause of the awful aroma. It was dead quiet inside the house, and the stench almost made them faint. None of the experts knew exactly what could cause such a nauseating smell.
Working their way deeper into the house, the wildlife expert began to suggest that it could be caused by some form of wildlife that had made the house their new home.
Was it An Animal?
The interior of the house was completely dilapidated to the point of being almost uninhabitable. The guess of the animal expert was becoming more and more of a real possibility, especially as it became clear that no human could live in this stench and run-down home.
Suddenly, the crew heard a noise coming from inside the house.
Now on high alert, the experts continued to make their way into the house. That’s when they came upon the now-completely unexpected, men digging into the floor of the home! Everyone there was completely caught by surprise.
The police began to question the men they found, but they began to act odd as if they were hiding something. The police immediately knew that these men were up guilty of something, but didn’t quite knew what yet.
A Closer Inspection
After escorting the men out of the run-down house, the experts decided to brave the stench and venture back in. After going past the new holes, they noticed something odd. The floor looked to be moving!
Upon closer inspection, they noticed that the floor was completely covered in tortoises packed from nose to tail. The wildlife expert was completely speechless and in disbelief of the living conditions of these animals.
And They Found…Tortoises?
The animal expert began to look closer at the reptiles and notice that these were not your run-of-the-mill tortoises. They were a rare breed of tortoises known as radiated tortoises—which were declared “critically endangered” in 2008.
Their docile nature means that they are rarely found in the wild, but a small amount of them are known to call Madagascar home. The markings on their shell make them easily distinguishable to both predators as well as poachers.
Radiated Tortoises Are Extremely Rare
The scarcity of these creatures makes them ideal candidates for being sold on the black market as pets and even as an edible delicacy. Having theses tortoises is against the law, making them even more valuable in the underground.
There are multiple operations involving the theft of this species and selling them to the highest bidder. In the 1990s, the species population was around 12 million, but that number is now down to be closer to 3 million today. Because of the limited number, criminals have created places like this.
The house was filled with more than 10,000 of these creatures crammed into a small space and given horrific living conditions—and 180 of them were already dead. The animal expert knew they needed to act fast in order to make sure that the living creatures had the best chance at having a future.
Looking at them, it was obvious that most of them were malnourished and/or dehydrated. They had to get these animals out of the house quickly!
Soary Randrianjafizanaka, Madagascar’s environmental agency's regional head, told National Geographic, "You cannot imagine. It was so awful. They had tortoises in the bathroom, in the kitchen, everywhere in the house."
Because of the physical state of most of the tortoises, extreme care was taken when transporting them to Le Village Des Tortues (aka Turtle Village), a private wildlife rehabilitation center, where they could be nursed back to health.
Getting Them Out
Unfortunately, due to the longevity of the tortoises’ poor living conditions, many of them were very sick and wouldn’t make it through the next couple of weeks. Of the 9,888 brought out of the house, only 8,000 of them survived the transportation and treatment.
Because the majority of them had been living in that decrepit their whole lives, they couldn’t be released back into the wild—not to mention that they would once again be at risk of poachers.
Rehoming the Tortoises
Because there are so few of the species left, they were able to find experts who were willing to give them a new home, as well as much-needed love and attention. Now they have all the water, food, and room to roam around as they need.
As good as the tortoises now have it, the exact opposite can be said for the ones that put them in such terrible living conditions for so long.
A Fitting Punishment
Many people wanted to see the animal abusers—the woman who owned the house and two men—to receive a severe punishment that fit their crimes. The court seemed to agree and gave long prison sentences to each of the criminals involved.
The court made it clear that anyone trying something similar will get a severe punishment as well.
Love Thy Neighbor
Neighbors can be incredibly annoying sometimes, but other times they can also be helpful. It’s important to keep in mind the major benefits of a community and that every neighbor is part of the community, no matter how annoying they might be.