Some of Asia’s most charismatic large river turtles are still found in Malaysia, but blatant and unregulated illegal trade threaten their future. For the river and painted terrapin, “stronghold” populations are found here that are critical for the species’ survival. The TSA is collaborating with local biologists and terrapin centers to implement a scientific approach to terrapin headstart and release strategies that will better promote population recovery. Rescue and breeding centers are also desperately needed for other species such as the striped narrow–headed softshell turtle and the Malaysian giant river turtle.

Singapore Workshop Day 4 - Finding Optimism

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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Singapore Workshop Day 3 - Strategizing Conservation Efforts

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!!

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Singapore Turtle Conservation Workshop - Day 2

ppvd_redlist_session_optOn 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.

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Turtle Conservation Workshop Opens in Singapore

singapore_group_shot_optWe 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. 

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Team TSA in Asia - August/September 2009

This report is the second to chronicle the daily activities of a TSA team’s visit to four countries in Asia – Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines - to design turtle facilities, develop conservation programs, and consult on turtle husbandry issues. The team is led by Rick Hudson and includes Bill Zeigler, Lonnie McCaskill and Dave Manser. The team was met in Myanmar by Kalyar Platt and her father Nyunt Thein (a local retired civil engineer).

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A New Future for Turtle Conservation in Malaysia

Turtle conservation in Malaysia is set to enter a new and exciting era with the country’s current King, who is also the Sultan of Terengganu giving the nod to the establishment of a turtle institute under his foundation, the Sultan Mizan Royal Foundation.  

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