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Year of the Turtle Celebration in Bangladesh

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The Center for Advanced Research in Natural Resource and Management (CARINAM), the TSA’s partner on the Batagur baska project in Bangladesh, recently celebrated the Year of the Turtle with an event at Dhaka University. Held in collaboration with the IUCN, Bangladesh Bird Club and Priokriti-o-Jibon, the event was held in the Teacher Student Center on May 25. 

Picture-1-YoT_optThe celebration included a rally by school children, presentations by conservationists, and a bird exhibition to create awareness of turtle conservation issues and to encourage people to take action and keep turtles as part of a healthy ecosystem.

 
 

Rescued Turtles Produce Hatchlings

P5030258In October 2010, the TSA imported a group of 50 yellow-headed temple turtles (Heosemys annandalii) that had been confiscated from a large illegal shipment in Hong Kong (read the full story on the import here). The turtles are being kept in an assurance colony at a private facility owned by TSA member Kenan Harkin. We are very pleased to announce that the first clutch of eggs from this group of turtles has hatched!

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Gearing up for Rafetus 2011

Editor's Note: With both the male and female Rafetus up and basking, the 2011 breeding season is upon us and all those involved are gearing up for this year’s work. Emily King will be based at the Suzhou Zoo throughout the breeding season and will be providing blog updates on this critical conservaton breeding project. 
 
Emily06Jun10SuzhouHi! I’m Emily and I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with the Yangtze giant softshell turtles at the Suzhou Zoo since the female was introduced to the male back in 2008.  For me, there was never any doubt in my mind what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to work with animals, specifically with wildlife or exotic species.  But it wasn’t until I graduated from university that I discovered what so many people already knew – that turtles are COOL.

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Forest Turtle Facility in Myanmar Receives Turtles

The_newly_arrived_turtles_feed_on_papaya_tomatoes_and_IpomeaKalyar Platt, the TSA’s Turtle Conservation Coordinator in Myanmar, recently returned to Yangon from the newly completed Arakan forest turtle (Heosemys depressa) facility in Gwa, Rakhine Region at the Taung-Nyo Forest Reserve. She will coordinate TSA support for in-situ propagation and assurance colony development for H. depressa at this site.

This_wooden_box_was_used_to_transport_the_turtles_to_their_new_facility_safelyDuring her visit, she transported six forest turtles (two males and four females) that the TSA received from the Mandalay Zoo for inclusion in the breeding program. Traveling with one of her colleages, Me Me Soe, Kalyar took them to Gwa in a large wooden box specially constructed for the trip.

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The Radiated Tortoise Crisis: Developing a Plan of Action

stunning_example_of_a_radiated_tortoise_found_along_the_road_optTSA and The Orianne Society are launching a partnership to develop strategies for saving this iconic symbol of Madagascar’s southern spiny forest.

We arrive in Madagascar around midnight on March 15 and by the time we get our bags and to the hotel it’s early morning on March 16. I am traveling with Christina Castellano, the newly appointed Director of Turtle Conservation Programs for The Orianne Society. She has a long-standing interest in Madagascar and intends to develop a comprehensive science-based program aimed at monitoring key populations of both radiated and spider tortoises. We are met at the airport by Herilala Randriamahazo, TSA’s Director of Tortoise Conservation in Madagascar. It has been exactly one year since I was last here and reported on the developing crisis with radiated tortoises in the south and the need for urgent conservation action. Together, Christina and I hope to determine how to best approach this problem, and to identify key populations that can still be protected. There is a sense of urgency to this mission because it appears that the situation may have finally reached the tipping point. After holding their own despite years of being harvested for food, the beautiful Radiated tortoise may be on its final legs. Our challenge is to determine a strategy that will at least preserve some healthy populations, and that solution will likely lie at the local community level. Southern Madagascar is a vast rural region where there is little capacity for enforcement of tortoise poaching activity. Enforcement is constrained by a poor communications network, and lack of transportation by officials, and lack of knowledge of the laws.

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TSA Board Members Inspect the New Facilities in Myanmar

boardFrom January 2009 to September 2010, TSA teams worked in Myanmar to develop concepts and designs for new breeding facilities for key chelonian program species. Building plans and budgets for new turtle and tortoise facilities were finalized in September 2010 and construction got underway shortly thereafter. Members of the TSA Board of Directors visited Lawkananda Park in Bagan, Myanmar to inspect one of the newest facilities in February.

lawkandar-female-with-nest-markerLawkananda is the largest and most successful of the four government-operated star tortoise breeding facilities in Myanmar. The existing facility is being vastly expanded - basically doubling the size - to accommodate their burgeoning population of Burmese star tortoises (Geochelone platynota), a critically endangered endemic species. Due to its success, the sanctuary has been overcrowded and the new construction here will help to alleviate this problem. 

lawkandar-juvenile-tortoiseThe new facility was literally built around an original building, which will now house only juvenile tortoises. The six walled sections will let the adult tortoises roam and graze freely, yet will allow for them to be separated into breeding groups thus assuring the greatest genetic diversity. It has been found that if tortoises are kept in one large herd, a single male will dominate the group and be the only one to mate. At the time of the visit, 20 clutches of eggs had already been laid, with an expectation of over 250 hatchlings emerging from those nests in June.

lawkanandar-razor-wireIn addition to adding more space, the new facility offers better security to guard against theft.  Over 500 Burmese star tortoises are managed here, 237 of them hatched in the last four years – 113 in 2010! Security is serious issue with star tortoises which sell for a lot of money, so measures must be made to prevent theft.  Previously, the tortoises were moved into a locked box at night with someone sleeping on top for security.

Lawkanadar-signA new facility for Asian mountain tortoises (Manouria emys phayrei) was also built adjacent to the star tortoise unit that features two large pools and shade retreats, and should accommodate ten adult tortoises. This will help distribute the large group of 65 tortoises that is currently being held at the Mandalay Zoo and create the third assurance colony for this highly threatened species in Myanmar.

A second facility for Burmese roof turtles (Batagur trivittata) is also now completed. In spring 2011, 50 sub-adult turtles that were hatched in 2007-08 will be moved here to relieve crowding at the Yadanabon Zoo. This facility effectively allows us to divide the captive gene pool of this critically endangered species, thus eliminating the “all eggs in one basket” scenario and avoid the risk of catastrophic loss at one facility – Yadanabon Zoo.  This species was previously believed to be extinct until its rediscovery in 2002.  Since that time, the captive assurance colony there has grown to over 400 individuals, representing a remarkable conservation success story. The new pond at Lawkananda will help to alleviate overcrowding at this program.

 
 

Exciting Nesting News for Two Rare Turtle Species

The nesting season for wild Asian river terrapins (Batagur) is winding down, just on the heels of the recently completed Batagur workshop in Singapore and Malaysia in February, and we hope that the training will have an impact on hatching success.

batagur_nesting_beach_chindwinIn Myanmar, Kalyar Platt (TSA Turtle Conservation Coordinator) just returned from the upper Chindwin River where she worked with field coordinator Kyaw Moe on the nest protection and egg recovery effort for the critically endangered Burmese roof turtle (Batagur trivittata). They report that in this 2010-2011 nesting season, nesting occurred as early as 9 December 2010 and continued through 26 March 2011. During this period, a total of 179 eggs were recovered for incubation. Approximately six to nine females were thought to have nested along a 48-mile stretch of the river.

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TSA Europe Assists with Illegal Turtle Confiscations

july_confiscation_3Over the past few years in Hong Kong, large numbers of illegally imported and/or traded turtles have been confiscated. On one hand, these confiscations are a good sign of effective law enforcement, but on the other hand it indicates that the mass illegal trade in Asia is on-going. The CITES Hong Kong authorities, in close contact with the Kadoorie Farm Botanic Gardens (KFBG), has offered these confiscated turtles to the TSA for re-homing within TSA assurance colonies and breeding programs.
 
TSA Europe has played a vital role in re-homing significant numbers of turtles within the European zoos organized within the European Association for Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) and the privately managed European Studbook Foundation (ESF). The year 2010 was a particularly busy year for re-homing confiscated shipments.

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Finishing Up the Hicatee Workshops in Belize

DSC_0379-2We just completed the second of our two Hicatee (Dermatemys mawii) Survey and Monitoring Workshops in Belize. After several days down south for the first workshop, this time we were up north on the New River Lagoon and associated tributaries. New River Lagoon is an approximately 27 mile long lagoon located in north-central Belize and is the largest body of freshwater in the country. Like the southern workshop, we had an outstanding and diverse group of attendants at the northern workshop, including representatives from the Belize Audubon Society, the Belize Fisheries Department, the Belize Forestry Department, the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE), and Lamanai Field Research Center (LFRC).

DSC_0359-2We all met at the LFRC on Thursday afternoon, and after a brief orientation and dinner we headed out onto the New River Lagoon to conduct net surveys at the confluence of the lagoon and New River where Dermatemys has been observed by local fishermen. No turtles were captured that night, but workshop attendants got experience with our netting procedure, and in between net checks we had great conversations about issues regarding Dermatemys status and exploitation in Belize. These talks were one of endless examples of the critical knowledge that Belizeans have regarding the realities (including politics) of Dermatemys conservation in their country and how important it is for different groups to work together for effective conservation.

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Hicatee Conservation Workshops in Belize

DSC_0175_-_2Just a quick note to say we just successfully completed the first of two Hicatee (Central American River Turtle, Dermatemys mawii) Survey and Monitoring Workshops in Belize.  This first workshop was conducted on the Rio Grande in southern Belize, near the town of Punta Gorda.  The second workshop begins tomorrow on the New River Lagoon in northern Belize. 

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