Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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.
Read more »
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!!
Read more »
On Tuesday morning - day two of the workshop - the seventy workshop participants reviewed the “Red List,” an internationally recognized database of the world’s most vulnerable species. Participants from countries throughout Asia provided the most up-to-date information on the status of each species. A few were determined to be secure enough now to consider lowering their Red List status, but for a significant number of other species the group agreed that they are now at a greater risk of extinction than when previously reviewed.
Despite numerous successes in captive breeding, habitat protection and community awareness, these dwindling species have suffered overwhelming stresses to their populations. Be it a poor fisherman trying to feed his family or a wildlife trader selling rare animals to an international collector for thousands of dollars, both result in animals being vacuumed from the wild.
Read more »
We were happy to see some old friends and meet some new ones at the Conservation of Asian Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles workshop at the Singapore Zoo. Over 70 delegates from 20 countries, including 16 Asian nations were in attendance.
Hosted by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore and the Wildlife Conservation Society, in collaboration with the Turtle Survival Alliance, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, San Diego Zoo Global and the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, the workshop summarized the turtle conservation activities over the past ten years in Asia.
Many of the same issues we heard about 10 years ago in Phnom Penh, Cambodia are still an issue, a disappointment but a reminder that we aren’t doing enough. There were some great highlights to the day mingled amongst the somber news; our Asian friends have not been sitting by idly. The scope and scale of the turtle trade in Asia is clearly still the problem and new countries and trade routes are being exploited. The numbers of turtles passing through some of these countries is almost incomprehensible; one country reported in excess of 40,000 lbs of turtles registered as being traded per year. This only represents what is passing through legally “on the books” and does not represent what is being transported illegally. One market in China reported in excess of one million turtles being sold annually with most of the turtles being endangered or critically endangered. Some of the rarer animals for the pet market are fetching prices of USD 25,000; it is little wonder these animals are being vacuumed from the landscape.
Read more »
Surveys were resumed in late January to assess the status of nesting banks and enumerate associated threats for two endangered species of Batagur
in India. After a rapid reconnaissance, two protected riverside hatcheries were established along the Chambal River near Garhaita (lower section, Uttar Pradesh) and Baroli Villages (upper section, Madhya Pradesh) in early February.
Every year, TSA in association with Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Forest Departments establishes such hatcheries to protect endangered Batagur kachuga
and B. dhongoka
nests from natural predation and poaching as well as to collect information on nesting along the Chambal River, possibly the last stronghold of B. kachuga