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The North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group (NAFTRG) sampled the Comal Springs in New Braunfels, Texas for the seventh time (fourth time in 2013) from November 8-10. We captured 442 turtles during this trip, bringing the yearly total for Comal Springs to 1,755 captured and processed turtles. The first sampling session for Comal Springs in 2014 will be February 28-March 2.
Volunteers from SWCA Environmental Consultants, Turtle Survival Alliance, Fort Worth Zoo, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Sea World San Antonio, Houston Zoo, Peninsula College, Houston ISD, and other affiliates participated in this year’s sampling efforts.
This year marked 14 continuous years of NAFTRG work in Florida and Texas. A total of 2,721 turtles were captured and processed this year: Comal Springs 1,755, Wekiwa Springs 547, Manatee Springs 271, Blue Springs 108, and Fanning Springs 50.
Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) India, in conjunction with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department (UPFD) and the Endangered Species Project recently completed renovations on a building at Kukrail Conservation Center in Lucknow. The facility is now known as the Laboratory for Aquatic Biology (LAB).
The LAB will be used for a variety of objectives, including:
1. Monitoring, researching and refining the captive management of turtles and other species currently being held at Kukrail and other satellite facilities
2. Providing a link between in situ and ex situ conservation projects for freshwater and wetland species in the region
3. Assisting with freshwater species rescue, rehabilitation and veterinary care using a mobile rescue response team, and
4. Preserving and archiving biological samples and research regarding freshwater species management.
Congratulations to Team India on a job well done! Special thanks to the British Chelonia Group for their support of this project.
The TSA is pleased to announce the hiring of Gregory Duplant as Project Coordinator for TSA Madagascar's southern tortoise program. Gregory comes to us from WCS Cambodia and brings a wealth of experience in working with indigenous people and promoting grassroots conservation.
Gregory will be responsible for mobilizing TSA's Confiscation to Reintroduction strategy for Radiated Tortoises, and is currently overseeing the construction of the third of four tortoise rescue centers in major trafficking centers in the south, where confiscations are most likely to occur. He will also assist in the development and testing of our tortoise release program, while building relationships with local communities to restore and protect tortoise populations.
His energy and adaptability allow him to get things done under trying conditions, and he has a talent from moving from concept to reality in a short time. He has become a valuable asset to the TSA Madagascar team.
Wildlife Week was celebrated in India this year from October 2-8. To commemorate the event, the TSA India team organized a painting/sketch competition and discussion on the topic "Impact of Interference of Humans on Wildlife" at St. Xavier's Higher Secondary School on October 3. The event was co-hosted by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department. A total of 60 students, from grades eight through ten participated.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Manoj Kumar Shukla, a Divisional Forest Officer. His presentation, "Threats of Wildlife and Role of the Students for Conservation" was enjoyed by all of the students in attendance.
At the end the day, refreshments were shared and certificates were distributed to all participants in the art contest. Those who were selected as winners received an additional prize.
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The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) work together to conserve three of Myanmar’s critically endangered endemic turtles and tortoises. Since 2009, the TSA has been aggressively pursuing a conservation campaign to conduct field research, coordinate rescue operations for turtles confiscated from the wildlife trade, hold training workshops and oversee multiple construction projects. During that time, we have managed to assemble assurance colonies (groups of endangered animals that are carefully managed in captivity to prevent their extinction) for several species. The Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) is considered to be “functionally extinct” in nature (no wild breeding populations remain), but it has done exceptionally well in captivity. At this point, several thousand animals exist in our assurance colonies in Myanmar, and those colonies continue to grow.
On August 11, the TSA India team conducted a rescue operation to protect Chitra nests from an island that was at risk of being washed away by a flood in the Yamuna River. The nests were removed and successfully transported to the Garhaita Turtle Survival Centre (GTSC) for incubation. In early October, a total of 123 turtles hatched.
On October 10, a meeting was held with Mr. Suresh Chandra Rajput (Range Forest Officer), to discuss the release of the hatchlings. Based on the results of that meeting, 87 hatchlings were successfully released. The release was held in the presence of Mr. Gurmeet Singh (Wildlife Warden) and a Range Forest Officer. The remaining 36 hatchlings are on hold for a later release, which is being planned along Yamuna River.
The TSA India team would like to thank Mr. Gurmeet Singh and Mr. Suresh Chandra Rajput for their valuable suggestions and kind support for this conservation initiatives.
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The North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group (NAFTRG) sampled the Comal Springs in New Braunfels, Texas for the sixth time (third time in 2013) from September 20-22, 2013. Comal Springs is the headwaters to the Comal River and represents a very important ecological region in Texas. This area is an iconic site in Texas that is visited by over a million people each year. People come to experience and swim in the Comal River, to visit historic Landa Park, or to enjoy the sites and tastes of an old German town in New Braunfels. The study site is in Landa Lake, the headwaters of Comal Springs that is responsible for feeding this entire system. This site is home to numerous endangered species as well as a host of invasive species.
During this past turtle survey, volunteers from SWCA Environmental Consultants Houston, Austin, and San Antonio offices, Turtle Survival Alliance, Fort Worth Zoo, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Sea World San Antonio, San Antonio Zoo, Houston ISD, Tyler Zoo, and other affiliates participated in the sampling effort. In just 2.5 field days, the group captured a new record 520 turtles representing four species. Over half of the captures were Common Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus). In less than two years’ time, the NAFTRG has already marked over 1,500 individuals in this spring-fed lake system.
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The 14th annual summer Florida park sampling occurred during late July despite extremely harsh weather and atypical conditions. The NAFTRG sampled Manatee Springs July 19-21, 2013. Prior to, and during, our visit to Manatee Springs, the Suwannee River drainage area was subjected to torrential rain. The Suwannee River swelled its banks and flooded much of the surrounding area including Manatee Springs State Park. We lost over 80% of our study site to dark river water. Despite the harsh conditions and loss of sampling area the crew was still able to capture and process 80 turtles representing five species. This extreme amount of water in a short period of time swelled the Suwannee River enough that it flooded, and caused the closure of our other two sites, Fanning and Peacock Springs. Dark river water made visibility in both parks impossible.
There is much reason to celebrate in Bangladesh with the recent discovery of TWO additional Sundarbans Batagur, or Northern River Terrapins (Batagur baska). The first was a healthy adult female that was discovered by Rupali Ghosh (TSA) in a private pond. This beautiful female was living on her own in the small village pond, but has since been added to the breeding colony managed at Bhawal National Park, bringing the number of females in that group to six. Here she will be able to contribute to the genetic diversity, and ultimately survival, of this critically endangered species.
The same week, Rupali also recovered another wild caught hatchling, discovered by fishermen. This is the third hatchling found this year – huge news considering that this species was considered to have no wild breeding populations remaining!
Rupali and her team will continue their grassroots work in the area, visiting with fishermen and villagers in an attempt to locate the breeding population and protect the area. If the habitat is suitable, it may represent a potential future release site for this species as the breeding program continues to flourish.
Many kudos to Rupali and our partners in this project: Vienna Zoo, Bangladesh Forest Department, IUCN Bangladesh and SOS – Save Our Species.
The TSA is pleased to announce that Dr. Terry M. Norton has joined the TSA team as consulting veterinarian for the Turtle Survival Center (TSC) in South Carolina. Terry has long been associated with the TSA and was one of the vet practitioners that worked with us during the big Hong Kong confiscation in 2001-2002. Dr. Norton lives just “down the road” in Georgia and brings to the TSC a wealth of experience with reptile and exotic animal medicine. Over the years, Terry has provided veterinary care for White Oak Conservation Center, Riverbanks Zoo, North Carolina State Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s St. Catherines Island Wildlife Survival Center. He developed and implemented the Georgia Wildlife Health Program, which has evaluated the health of many state and federally listed species including sea turtles, alligator snapping turtles, diamondback terrapins, Barbour’s map turtles, gopher tortoises, box turtles, eastern indigo snakes, eastern diamondback and canebrake rattlesnakes, eastern king snakes, American alligators, American oystercatchers, brown pelicans and marine mammals.
Currently, he provides veterinary care for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and St. Catherines Island Foundation programs. He is the Director and Founder of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. In the words of TSA President Rick Hudson, “Terry brings a standard of excellence and level of professionalism to the TSC that are unmatched. He is a highly skilled and accomplished chelonian vet – one of the best in my opinion. It was a very fortuitous set of circumstances that brought us back together and we are delighted to welcome him to the TSA family.”