Colombia is a strategic location for turtle conservation in South America, and with 27 species, three of which are endemic, is one of the world’s turtle diversity hotspots. It supports the highest number of chelonian families, with seven. But 12 (45%) of its species, including all three endemics, are considered in some threat category by the IUCN, due mainly to consumption and habitat loss. TSA is supporting Colombian biologists in their quest to implement a well structured Strategic Plan for Turtle Conservation, involving academia, local NGO's, governmental institutions and local communities.
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2012 was the busiest and best in the history of the Turtle Survival Alliance. Here are just a few of the accomplishments that we're so grateful for as the year draws to a close:
- In Madagascar, the TSA’s grassroots campaign to expose the Radiated Tortoise poaching crisis is beginning to yield positive results throughout the country. Community agreements to strengthen protection for this iconic species have resulted in a dramatic increase in confiscations and arrests in 2012, a sign that the tide may finally be turning. In 2013, the TSA will embark on an ambitious program to build a series of rescue centers throughout the south for rehabilitation and treatment until the tortoises are prepared to return to the wild.
- In December, the TSA will dedicate Burma’s first Turtle Rescue Center. Years of planning and fund-raising have culminated in this facility that promises to save countless turtles and tortoises rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. New assurance colony facilities were also built this year for Burmese Mountain Tortoises and Arakan Forest Turtles.
- The June hatching of 50 Northern River Terrapins in captive facilities in both Bangladesh and India was a stunning achievement, and made global news. This gives new hope for the survival of this critically endangered turtle that is believed to be very near extinction in the wild.
- A recent Save Our Species grant will breathe new life into recovery programs for Asian river terrapins (Genus Batagur) in India, Myanmar, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Captive management is essential to safeguarding these species until efforts to protect and restore nesting habitat are successful, and we are actively building a multi-national model that integrates these strategies.
- The TSA produced two films this year to increase awareness of the extensive poaching problems that threaten chelonians in both Madagascar and Bangladesh, and the brutal slaughter that accompanies the illegal wildlife trade.
- The TSA launched a program in Colombia this year – our first in South America – that will focus on endemic species, most notably the critically endangered Magdalena River Turtle. By expanding a successful community-based program of nest protection, hatching, headstarting and release, these grassroots efforts will have a greater impact on the species’ recovery in the wild.
- In India, the TSA is poised to assume management of the Kukrail Gharial Conservation Center in Lucknow where we will build assurance colonies of most of northern India’s threatened chelonians. The Center will become the home base of operations for TSA India, and provide a facility where the increasing number of confiscated turtles can be rehabilitated.
- Launching the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina in 2013 is guaranteed to prove transformational for the TSA and will propel us into a new era. Building assurance colonies for some of the world’s rarest species – many of which will depend on captive management for their survival – will ensure that we maintain our commitment to zero turtle extinctions.
Membership revenue and online sales account for just roughly 8% of our total revenue. The remainder of our income is provided primarily through grants and donations. For that reason, we are reaching out to those of you who support the TSA to ask for your consideration of a year-end gift to help propel us into an even bigger and better 2013.
This gift does not have the benefits associated with membership and is completely tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. It is a gift that comes from the heart by those who understand the needs of chelonians worldwide and appreciate the work being done year-round by the TSA globally. Click here to donate today.
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From September 29 to October 8, the Universidad del Valle, in Cali, Colombia, offered a graduate course in natural history and conservation of freshwater turtles and tortoises, with the support from the TSA and other national organizations. In this course students learned techniques to identify and study turtle species in Colombia, the main drivers of turtle extinctions, and management and conservation strategies for endangered species.
18 Students from different regions of Colombia and one from Ecuador participated in the course, which included a field trip to Isla Palma, in the Pacific, to practice field techniques and develop small research projects with different turtle species present in the island.
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Brian Horne and Rick Hudson represented the TSA recently at a South American turtle Red-listing workshop in Brazil, joining scientists and conservationists gathered to evaluate the conservation status of the tortoises and freshwater turtles of South America for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Spending at least ten days on a boat traveling down the Amazon River with the South American contingent, they used the opportunity to become familiar with the players in turtle conservation in those countries, and to discuss needs and priority areas.