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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.
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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!
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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.
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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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The Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska), widely considered one of the most critically endangered of the large river terrapins, is getting a new lease on life due to some remarkable breeding successes recently. Since 2009, the TSA has been working to secure a small captive population of in Bangladesh, and over the years managed to acquire 14 males and five females from “backyard” fish breeding operations. Some of these turtles had been in captivity for more than 25 years, often under adverse conditions, a testament to their durability. The TSA works in collaboration with the Bangladeshi NGO CARINAM and the Forest Department, and has established a breeding facility at the Bhawal National Park near Dhaka. The Vienna Zoo in Austria joined as a strong partner in 2010 and has provided significant technical and financial support to the program. Over the years we have reported our share of disappointments, including the loss of several important females just days before the team arrived to purchase them, to the loss of our only nest last year due to heavy rains and flooding.
But in 2012 we struck pay dirt. From late March through early April, all five females nested within a 24 day period, using the improved sand bank that was provide, laying a total of 92 eggs. Prior to egg laying a team led by Peter Praschag had trained staff on proper egg handling and incubation techniques, and oversaw the conversion of an artificial incubation facility. All five nests were protected with heavy wire cages designed to deter predators, and remote thermometers were installed to monitor incubation temperatures. The Bangladesh team led by SMA Rashid and AJG Morshed did a credible job of monitoring the clutches through incubation, and communicated with us daily on their findings. All this care and attention to detail paid off when the eggs began to hatch on June 7, after 64 days of incubation. All total, 27 hatchlings emerged from the five nests, not bad given the compromised nutritional condition of two of the recently acquired females. Twenty-five survived and are growing rapidly in the newly renovated hatchling facility.
Meanwhile in West Bengal India, a small captive group of about ten B. baska had been maintained for many years at the visitor center for the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve at Sanjekhali, though they had never reproduced. A TSA India team led by Shai Singh visited this facility in March and made recommendations for improvements to the facilities including the addition of a nesting beach. Surprising, this simple husbandry adjustment was sufficient to induce successful egg-laying, because on 12 June the staff found hatchling Batagur swimming in the pond, recently emerged from undetected nests. 25 hatchlings were recovered.
All total, 50 new B. baska have been added to the dwindling population, significantly bolstering this species’ outlook for survival. With such a small number of breeding females – eight – the challenge next will be to set up breeding pairs or trios to maximize the genetic potential of as many wild-caught founders as possible, and to closely manage this small population according to studbook guidelines. A third captive population will soon be established at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust when Vienna Zoo sends a male to join the two existing females that have lived there for many years. Outside the range, Vienna Zoo holds the only known captive group of B. baska. This program has achieved remarkable success in a very short time frame, and is a reflection both of the urgency of the situation coupled with a generous and caring donor community. We gratefully acknowledge the following for their ongoing previous and ongoing support: Patricia Koval/ WWF Canada, Fagus Foundation, Columbus Zoo, Toronto Zoo, AAZK - Henry Doorly Zoo, Wade Foundation through the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Natural Encounters Conservation Fund, San Diego Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Cassidy Johnson and Walter Sedgwick.
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Sheena Koeth (Cleveland Metroparks Zoo), Yaduraj Khadpekar (Wildlife SOS, India) and Sue Carstairs (Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre in Ontario, Canada) traveled in October to the Kukrail Turtle Breeding Centre in Lucknow, the Garhaita Turtle Conservation Centre (near Etawah) and the Deori Eco-Centre in Madhya Pradesh. The three, all veterinarians or veterinary technicians, provided suggestions on how to improve the overall turtle husbandry and gave input on how to make a more efficient diet chart for the turtles in each facility. An overall health assessment of the captive stock turtles was also conducted. Their input has proven to be extremely useful in improving the health management of the turtles at each facility. During their visit, new disease diagnostic tools were developed, along with quick reference charts that will help with mortality assessment and growth rate measurement at the headstarting facility in Garhaita.
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The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) and TSA recently jointly sponsored and organized a veterinary workshop to train veterinarians from the five Turtle Priority Areas (TPAs) of India. Twenty wildlife vets, associated with reptile care and rescue, participated in the training. The workshop was held from June 26-30, 2011 at the MCBT facility and focused primarily on the basics of chelonian husbandry and health care in captivity, as well as the handling and rehabilitation of turtle confiscations. The training program was split into two sessions. Veterinarians who manage chelonians for the forestry departments and NGOs comprised the bulk of the first session. The second session consisted primarily of private practice veterinarians, particularly those associated with wildlife rescue within India.
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World Turtle Day was observed on May 23 at various project sites of the Turtle Survival Alliance’s India program to raise awareness about the diversity and threats to the nation’s non-marine chelonians. TSA has been organising such education and awareness campaigns and events targeting various stakeholders along with its turtle conservation and research projects across the country to celebrate different dates of environment calendar since 2006. One event was held at the Turtle Conservation Centre along National Chambal Sanctuary River in Garhaita village, Etawah.
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Day 4 finally rolled around and it was time to sit back and listen to presentations on some of what are considered model programs for turtle conservation in the region. First up is the Cuc Phuong Turtle Conservation Center in Vietnam, perhaps the best known and respected of all the regional centers due to its longevity. The presentation was done by the young man in charge now, Hoan Van Thai. This was his first ever public presentation before an international audience and for a shy person, he did an admirable job. He was followed by Shailendra Singh, TSA Turtle Conservation Coordinator, who presented a comprehensive 5-year overview of the Batagur program on the Chambal River Sanctuary in India. This program is impressive in its scope and the number of hatchling Batagur (two species) that have been hatched and released (37,000 for B. dhongoka alone) is significant. Many other components are involved including headstarting, local awareness and poacher conversion.
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With all the country and trade reports as background information, and with the Red-listing behind us, the stage was finally set for the critical Day 3 of the workshop: designing specific priority conservation actions for the most threatened species. And though I am not at liberty to formally report the findings of the Red List workshop, I can tell you that the situation has worsened, in fact very considerably. The number of species recommended for the Critically Endangered rank (the next most serious rank is Extinct In The Wild) now stands at 38% of the 86 Asian species, a 90% increase since the 1999 Cambodia workshop!!