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The 14th annual spring Florida park sampling was a success despite harsh weather and atypical conditions. The NAFTRG sampled Manatee, Fanning, and Peacock Springs March 22-24, 2013. At the time of survey southern Georgia, where the Okefenokee Swamp gives rise to the Suwannee River, was heavily impacted by over 18 inches of rain. This extreme amount of water in a short period of time swelled the Suwannee River enough that it flooded numerous springs along the its course through northwestern panhandle of Florida. Amoung those parks were Manatee, Fanning, and Peacock Springs. We were completely flooded out of Fanning and Peacock. Dark river water made visibility in both parks impossible. This same flood made us lose over half of our study site in Manatee Springs and also brought in 15 manatees into the park - a situation that has never happened in the four years of sampling the park. Despite all of this, we still captured 80 turtles representing five species in two days.
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The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Utah's Hogle Zoo (HZ) conducted their latest field expedition in March 2013 as part of the Madagascar Tortoise Conservation Project. The goals of the expedition were to:
• Conduct an assessment of last year's public awareness campaign using survey questionnaires and focus groups;
• Distribute new campaign materials and education workbooks;
• Identify tortoise release sites to be incorporated into the reintroduction program;
• Develop a research methodology to evaluate release strategies;
• Discuss the creation of temporary holding pens to facilitate confiscations with community leaders;
• Conduct follow-up meetings with the World Bank (WB) and Madagascar National Parks (MNP) to determine status of WB funding of project; and
• Develop an eco-tour to bring social and economic benefits to the communities associated with the reintroduction program.
This year our field crew included me (Christina Castellano, HZ), Riana Rakotondrainy (HZ), Saaya Tema (RAW Africa), Ryan Walker (TSA), Andrea Currylow (Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP)), Sylvain Mahazotahy (TSA), and Soary Randrianjafizanaka (TSA). Herilala Randriamahazo (TSA) was unable to join us in the field, but organized meetings and continued to facilitate the program from Antananarivo (Tana).
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From Bangladesh to Cambodia, River Terrapins (Genus Batagur) are laying eggs - and lot of them - both in the wild and captivity. Below is a brief summary of River Terrapin nesting activity in programs managed by the TSA and their partners.
Northern River Terrapin or Sunderban Batagur (B. baska): In Bangladesh, at the captive breeding center at Bhawal National Park, the first nest (19 eggs) was laid March 21, followed by two more nests on March 23, consisting of 22 and 14 eggs respectively. Apparently one of the two females dug up another female's nest while laying her own so there was some breakage and egg loss. Project Coordinator Rupali Ghosh was on hand for the nest digging. This is a joint program of Turtle Survival Alliance, Vienna Zoo, Bangladesh Forest Department and our newest partner, IUCN Bangladesh. There are 14.5 adults in this breeding colony (14 males and five females).
In India, at the B. baska breeding center at Sajnekhali, in West Bengal, TSA India Director Shai Singh reports that two females are emerging every night and making trial digs in the newly created nesting enclosure. Last year 50 total hatchlings emerged from these two Centers and we are hoping for a much better hatch rate this year. More good news: the Forest Department procured an additional adult female (22 kg) from a village pond in the northern Sunderbans, bringing the total number at Sajnekhali to 6.5.32 (six males, five females and 32 unknown).
All total there are now 20 males, 10 females and 55 unsexed juveniles of this rare Batagur in captive centers in Indian and Bangladesh and the conservation outlook is looking much brighter that it was just a few years ago when this species was ranked #4 on the list of the Top 25 World's Most Endangered Turtles.
Another great group of volunteers joined us at the Turtle Survival Center on the weekend of March 2-3 to help get the facility ready for turtles. It was cold and there was some messy clean up work, but everyone hung in there. Special kudos go out to Luke Wyrwich, Brad Moxley and Steve Nelson who were nonstop workhorses for this event and completed the bulk of the gravel removal. Other projects included cleaning out ponds, removing vegetation along fencelines and adding wire mesh to existing chain link fencing around ponds (to contain future hatchlings).
On the following weekend, Cris Hagen (Director of Animal Management) had a team on site removing large trees that stood in the way of new construction, or that posed a fall hazard for greenhouses. In total, eight pine trees were removed and chipped into mulch. Check out the Turtle Survival Alliance Facebook page for pictures from both events. The next project on the horizon is the completion of the perimeter fence!
The TSA would like to offer a huge thanks to the volunteers who were able to come out and lend a hand at the Turtle Survival Center on February 9 and 10. Special kudos go out to Jay Allen who served double-duty as a hard working volunteer and as BBQ Master!
The volunteers were able to get a ton of stuff done including removing existing fencing and posts from pastures and hauling away trash and clutter from storage areas. Additionally, trees were removed from areas where tortoise facilities will be built and either burned or hauled into the woods to decompose naturally. Significant progress was also made on scrubbing the existing ponds and getting them ready for turtles. All in all, it was a good time and we appreciate everyone's hard work! More pictures of the event are available on the TSA's Facebook page.
The TSA-India program is pleased to announce a newly formed collaboration with Turtle Limited, a ready-made men's apparel company based in Kolkata, India. Turtle Limited is one of India's fastest growing menswear companies, with a reputation for providing formidable value and international style across the range of shirts, t-shirts, trousers and accessories. The company's two iconic brands - Turtle and London Bridge, have proved to be game changers in the world of men's fashion.
Through this agreement, Turtle Limited has agreed to provide a yearly donation to support turtle conservation work in India. Additionally, the TSA logo will appear on their products, helping to spread the word about the TSA. This is the first collaboration with a corporate entity for the TSA-India program and we are hopeful that other Indian companies will follow suit. Congratulations to Shailendra Singh and his team for forging this relationship!
TSA India, the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the Gharial Conservation Alliance jointly organized an awareness event to celebrate World Wetland Day on 2 February 2013 at the Kukrail Gharial Rehabilitation Centre.
Participants were welcomed by Mr. VB Srivastava (Wildlife Warden, Endangered Species Project) through an informative lecture on wetlands for more than 100 participants consisting of high school students, forest department staff as well as local conservationists.
Dr. Pankaj Srivastava (Scientist of National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow) discussed the basics of wetland conservation and restoration. Ms. Sheena L. Koeth (Cleveland Metroparks Zoo/TSA) spoke about aquatic reptiles and their conservation. Additionally, Dr. Shailendra Singh (Director, TSA India) interacted with participants to inform them about current status of regional freshwater conservation areas and the iconic species of turtles and crocodiles that they harbor.
The program also included interactive games, educational materials and activities based on freshwater habitats and the species that they support. The event was a part of the “Regional Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation Campaign for 2013,” a yearlong project being spearheaded by the Turtle Survival Alliance.
Ms. Renu Singh hosted the sessions and presented wetland poetry for the students. Mr. Ayodhya Prasad (Range Officer, Kukrail Gharial Centre) gave a vote of thanks and distributed prizes to the winners of the interactive sessions.
The event was coordinated by Mr. Bhasker Dixit and Mr Ashutosh Tripathi (TSA). Mr. Suresh Pal Singh, Mr. Rohit Singh, Mr. Bahadur, Ms. Anuradha Rai, Ms. Geetanjali Sharma and staff of the Kukrail Centre greatly helped with the organization of the event.
The event was conducted under the guidance of Dr. Rupak De (Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife UP) and Sanjay Srivastava (Conservator, Endangered Species Project).
The event was supported by a grant from Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and received extensive local press coverage. Click here for a PDF of the article from the Sunday Pioneer in Lucknow.
The North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group (NAFTRG) sampled the Comal Springs in New Braunfels, Texas for the fourth time (first time in 2013) from February 1-3. Comal Springs is the headwaters to the Comal River and represents a very important ecological region in Texas.
Volunteers from SWCA Environmental Consultants, Turtle Survival Alliance, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Busch Gardens, Sea World San Antonio, Houston ISD, and other affiliates participated in the sampling effort. In just 2.5 field days, the group captured 406 turtles representing four species. Over half of the captures were Common Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus). In just one year’s time, the NAFTRG has already marked 464 individuals in this spring-fed lake system.
The next sampling session for this spring will be April 12 – 14. Please come and join us! Click here to learn more about how you can participate.
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It's official! Rick Hudson (TSA President) and Scott Davis (TSA Executive Director) traveled to South Carolina on Monday, January 21, to sign the papers and officially purchase the Turtle Survival Center.
To achieve our goal of zero turtle extinctions, we have long recognized the need for a dedicated center to build up robust captive populations of species that are critically endangered and that face an uncertain future in the wild. With the purchase of the Turtle Survival Center (TSC), we are on the verge of something truly transformational for the TSA and believe that in a short time the TSC will help guarantee the survival of a number of high priority species.
There are still opportunities to support this exciting initiative, as we move forward with renovation and daily operations of the facility. Please click here to learn more about how your gift can make a difference for some of the world's rarest chelonians. To date, we have raised $808,806 of our total goal of $1.6 million.
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It’s official!! Myanmar’s first turtle and tortoise rescue facility was dedicated on December 6, at the Zeepin Forest Reserve, Ban Bwe Tree Nursery, about 17 miles east of May Myo, in Shan State. TSA President Rick Hudson handed over the keys to the new Turtle Rescue Center (TRC) to U Myint Sein of the Forestry Department saying “It is our sincere hope that this facility will offer new hope to thousands of turtles and tortoises confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade.” The TRC is located along the Lashio Road which leads to China, and is a major trade route for illegally harvested wildlife coming out of Mandalay heading for the border. Lashio was originally selected as the site for the TRC but plans changed due to logistical concerns and moved to a forestry station outside of May Myo, locally known as Pwin Oo Lwin. Aside from being more accessible (just an hour drive from Mandalay), the climate here is moderate and more conducive to animal rescue. The TRC was designed in May 2012 by a TSA team consisting of Cris Hagen (Director of Animal Management), Bill Holmstrom (Board Member), Shailendra Singh (Director TSA India), Kalyar Platt (Director TSA Myanmar) and Rick Hudson.