By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4) – For most people, the Denver Zoo is a place where Coloradans can go see exotic animals. But, few people realize that the zoo also play a much bigger role globally.

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(credit: CBS)

“You come here and we teach you about the plights of wildlife. We connect you to them. We educate you about them, but we do work around the world helping save wildlife” said Senior Vice President of Animal Science Brian Aucone.

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(credit: Denver Zoo)

That’s why the Denver Zoo is sending two staff members to Madagascar. They are going to help rehabilitate some 11,000 tortoises.

“These animals were brought into a situation where they were going to be sold off for wildlife trade for whatever reason” said Tom Weaver, Assistant Curator for Reptiles and Fish. “It’s good that this situation got caught.”

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(credit: Denver Zoo)

On April 10, Madagascan police found nearly 11,000 critically endangered, radiated tortoises in a home. The animals were in poor condition because they were crowded in a house, and had no access to food or water.

Weaver says there is a lot of work to be done.

“There’s going to be a lot of rehabbing as far as veterinary care. Observational skills are important to see how these tortoises are doing, and eventually if these animals can be put back into the wild. They’re going to have to be evaluated so it’s going to be a lot of work,” Weaver said.

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(credit: Denver Zoo)

A group called Turtle Survival Alliance stepped up to help the rehabilitation process, but it was a job even too big for them. So, they reached out the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for help.

The Denver Zoo answered the call.

“We have a lot of skills that we can bring to help these individuals and help this species which is a critically endangered species.” Aucone said.

It’s going to be a big job, but rehabilitating animals is something Denver Zoo zookeepers know how to do, and they are happy to share their expertise.

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(credit: CBS)

“I’m really proud that Denver Zoo stepped up. This is what I think that our donors and guests expect of us to do,” Weaver said.

The Denver Zoo is a carpenter to help build enclosures and one zoo keeper to help rehab the tortoises. In addition to the staff members, the zoo is also sending funding.

The goal is to release most of those tortoises back into the wild.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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