|Blog | Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA)|
|Updated||Fri, 23 Feb 2018 05:25:43 +0000|
|Description||The Turtle Survival Alliance is a global partnership of individuals, zoos, aquariums, biologists and researchers who have joined together to help conserve threatened and endangered tortoise and turtle species.|
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|Painted Terrapins found in North Sumatra|
|Published:||Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:59:58 +0000|
Our partner Joko Guntoro of the Satucita Foundation reports that in the past two months, two female critically endangered Painted Terrapins (Batagur borneoensis) have been found in the province of North Sumatra, Indonesia. These two specimens are the first Painted Terrapins to be identified by the Satucita Foundation in the province.
On 13 December 2017, a female Painted Terrapin was incidentally captured by fishermen in the Langkat Regency of North Sumatra. The turtle was reported to the Department of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation of the Ministry of Forestry (BKSDA) Section II - Langkat. The day following its capture, the staff of the Satucita Foundation and BKSDA – Langkat collected morphometric data on the turtle, inserted a PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tag, and released the turtle back into the estuary.
Left: The first documented Painted Terrapin in North Sumatra. Right: Ahmaddin (BKSDA - Langkat), Yusriono (Satucita Foundation), and Anto (Secretary of Community Group) release the female Painted Terrapin into the estuary.
Following the finding, the Satucita Foundation, in collaboration with the BKSDA – Langkat, and a community villager, performed nesting surveys in the Langkat Regency through 28 January 2018. Through these surveys, they identified 5 nests of Painted Terrapin; however, none of the nests contained viable eggs for protection. Two of the nests appeared to have been depredated by predators, while the other three appeared to have been harvested by local fishermen.
On 29 January 2018, less than two months later, and fittingly the day following the final nesting survey in the Langkat Regency, a second adult female Painted Terrapin was identified in North Sumatra. Like the previous female, the critically endangered turtle was incidentally caught by fishermen in Langkat. Her capture was immediately reported to the BKSDA Section II - Langkat and the Satucita Foundation. The presence of this female is exceptional news, considering that she is only the second physical specimen of her kind recorded from the province.
After receiving the information regarding the ensnared turtle, the Satucita Foundation's chairman Yusriono, and staff members of the BKSDA made the four-hour trek by minibus, motorbike, and boat back to the village where she was being held. The turtle was found to have been incidentally snagged on the leg by a fishing hook. After giving her a health examination, recording morphometric measurements, and inserting a PIT tag beneath her skin for future monitoring, she too was released back into the estuary.
Left: The second documented Painted Terrapin in North Sumatra. Right: Yusriono (Satucita Foundation) releases the female Painted Terrapin back into the estuary.
Meanwhile in the Aceh province, Joko and his team, in collaboration with the BKSDA – Langsa, and two community villagers, continue their nesting patrols on the beaches of the Aceh Tamiang Regency. The patrols in the Aceh Tamiang Regency, where the Satucita Foundation's primary efforts for Painted Terrapins are focused, have thus far resulted in the finding, excavation, and relocation of 423 eggs from 27 nests this season. On an interesting note, the team also successfully secured one Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) nest contains 119 eggs on 7 February while patrolling for Painted Terrapins. Both species will utilize the same estuarine nesting beaches. With nesting patrols continuing until early March, stay tuned for more exciting news from Sumatra!more...
|Faces of the TSA Vol. 14|
|Published:||Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:30:32 +0000|
Who: Jay Allen
Our next family relocation took me from the rainforest to the reef when we moved to Miami Beach, Florida. This is where I had my first turtle sighting. Snorkeling was a daily event with my two older brothers, and it provided my first encounter with a Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta). He was small and young; probably 3 to 5 years old. I enjoyed watching it cruise along to forage on corals and anything else that came along. It was a very cool encounter for me as an 11-year-old.
I really got involved with chelonian conservation efforts right before the grounds for the Turtle Survival Center (TSC) were purchased. At the time, I was working at a National Fish Hatchery in the area, and Rick Hudson invited me to go by and check the place out. It was perfect for what was needed. As Rick stated, "There's a couple hundred thousand dollars' worth of stuff here - this is a big WIN."
I enjoy going to the TSC, and worked on the very first cleaning up of and infrastructure installation for the grounds there. Installing the plumbing system for the Forest Complex was totally brutal as it had rained so much that year. I have to give a shout out to Luke Wyrich and Theresa Stratmann. The three of us dug ditches, calf-deep in some good South Carolina mud, for the PVC plumbing installation. I have been plumbing for 30 + years and this was a very difficult, but extremely rewarding endeavor. Additionally, I have enjoyed working at the TSC with Nathan Haislip; we have gotten many things accomplished together for the center including, grinding and staining the conference room, pouring the floor for the quarantine building, and much more. For me, the TSA/TSC is a great way to give back; we need more of that in this day and age.
The long-term educational value of my exhibits - knowing that these exhibits will be there (some after I'm gone) to teach future generations why we need to protect our animals and their habitats - is what makes me the proudest. My quote that embodies this is, "Start them young and they will come back to you."
|Species Spotlight Vol. 14|
|Published:||Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:18:01 +0000|
Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis)
Photo credit: Mengey Eng/WCSmore...
|A 'Royal' Conservation Effort for Cambodia|
|Published:||Tue, 20 Feb 2018 17:48:06 +0000|
By Andrew Walde
A beautiful male captive-reared Southern River Terrapin eyes freedom on the shores of the Sre Ambel River. Credit: Mengey Eng/WCS
On November 1, 2017, I left for a multi-week trip to Cambodia with Brian Horne, Coordinator of Freshwater Turtle and Tortoise Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The purpose of this trip was for two critically important agenda items for large riverine turtles: 1) The release of 25 critically endangered captive-reared adult Southern River Terrapins or Royal Turtles (Batagur affinis), and 2) Partake in a strategic technical workshop for large riverine turtles including Batagur.
The Royal Turtle, Cambodia's National Reptile, has been the focal species for the WCS's Cambodian chelonian program since 2001 when a small population was "rediscovered" in the Sre Ambel River. Initially started as a collaborative project with WCS and The Royal Government of Cambodia's Fisheries Administration (FiA), the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) helped build the initial grow-out facility for the species. Since this initial phase, the TSA has focused on other projects in the region. In 2016 the TSA was invited back into the fold to run the turtle program in Cambodia as a joint project. Up until last year, the Cambodian program had a single-species-focus on the Southern River Terrapin, but in 2016 the WCS/TSA team took over a project for the endangered Asian Giant Softshell Turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) on the Mekong River from Conservation International (CI). These two species will take a significant multi-pronged conservation approach through community outreach, nest protection, habitat protection, and vigilant law enforcement efforts to maintain and increase their Cambodian populations.
A male Southern River Terrapin displays its serrated jaws, used for feeding on aquatic vegetation. Credit: Nhek Sreyleak
Stepping off the plane in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, we met up with the WCS Bronx Zoo Zoological Health Program team (WCS Health Team) of Paul Calle, Angela Perry, and Kate McClave. The five of us headed straight out for Koh Kong, the capital city of Cambodia's Koh Kong Province (A six-hour drive after 23h of flights!). Once there, we could get set up to conduct health surveys of the Royal Turtles in the colony and select animals for the upcoming release. Because the reintroduction of these 25 animals would only be the second of its type for the program and part of a complex strategy to bolster the wild population (believed extinct until the year 2000) in Cambodia, releasing the most fit individuals is of the utmost importance for the efficacy of the initiative.
The next day, we set to work on capturing Royal Turtles from the big earthen pond at the Koh Kong facility—where the water visibility is just about zero. After we caught a couple, we set up a makeshift lab and started processing the turtles. We then sent the health team back to the hotel to work out the kinks on processing the samples. While the WCS Health Team worked on turtle health protocols and processes, Brian, Jay Allen, and I went to work on making improvements to the new ponds that the turtles were going to be transferred to. For the next five days we cycled through turtle captures, turtle processing, health assessments, attaching acoustic transmitters, and then transferring over to pond construction. In the end, the WCS Health Team selected, processed, and tagged 13 female and 12 male turtles aged approximately 8 years for release. It was fun, but long, hot, and tiring work!
Andrew Walde, Shailendra Singh, Kalyar Platt, German Forero-Medina, and Camila Ferrara with male terrapins. Credit: Pelf Nyok
On the afternoon of November 9th, Phase II of the Koh Kong trip began. Our chelonian colleagues from around the world descended on Koh Kong to participate in a technical workshop and retreat to discuss large riverine turtle conservation efforts, issues, and future directions. The mood was immediately lively as everyone presented their work, and had comments, suggestions, and ideas to share to help the other projects. The experience and knowledge sharing on large riverine turtles from the 12 countries represented was an experience I don't think any of us will forget.
Back row: Steve Platt, Som Sitha, Andrew Walde, Lonnie McCaskill, Paul Calle, Maslin As-singkly, German Forero-Medina, Kalyar Platt. Front row: Brian Horne, Shailendra Singh, Camila Ferrara, Joko Guntoro, Rony Garcia, Pelf Nyok
The day following the technical workshop, the 25 Royal Turtles designated for release were introduced into the Sre Ambel River to much fanfare. The release was attended by more than 30 project participants representing the TSA, WCS, FiA, and Wildife Reserves Singapore (WRS), government officials, and news reporters. Publicity for the event was extensive, with television, newspaper, and magazine outlets all covering the release. There was a huge swirl of emotions watching those Batagur return to their native river and we were rewarded with several turtles "breaching" like whales (which none of us had ever seen before). This was the second such release of adult Royal Turtles into the Sre Ambel, following a release of 21 individuals in 2015. Like this cohort, the original 21 turtles were fitted with acoustic transmitters to monitor their movements and survivorship in the river.
Left: Andrew Walde and TSA Chairman of the Board Patricia Koval release terrapins. Right: HE Srun Lim Song, Deputy Director General of the FiA releases a terrapin. Credits: Kalyar Platt
The initial release of individuals in 2015 has thus far proven successful. After two years of monitoring, this original group has shown an 85 percent survival rate. To continue this success, the teams in Cambodia must stay vigilant with community relations to help ensure the animals are not caught for consumption. In addition to the threat of capture of this animal for food, habitat alteration and degradation has been a large factor for this turtle's disappearance in Cambodia. Prior to July of this year, sand-dredging was a major impact on the destruction of Royal Turtle habitat and nesting beaches. In July, the Cambodian government halted large-scale sand-dredging and sand-mining operations in the rivers of the Koh Kong Province. This move is exprected to increase the survivability and reproductive potential of the two cohorts of Royal Turtles released there. Furthermore, the WCS and Rainforest Trust have entered into a mutual conservation partnership with the goal of creating a sanctuary along the Sre Ambel river – an initiative that will be vital to long-term conservation efforts for the turtles.
Brian Horne, Sonja Luz, Heng Sovannara, Steve Platt, and HE Srun Lim Song. Credit: Kalyar Platt
The day following the release of Royal Turtles, we attended the official opening of the Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Centre (KKRCC). With work on the facility beginning in 2016 as an initiative of the WCS and FiA, the 24 acre (9.7 ha) center currently houses around 160 Royal Turtles in its eight ponds. Like the previous day's event, the opening ceremony of the center was well attended by WCS, FiA, and TSA staff, private and public sponsors, government officials including the Province's Deputy Governor, Buddhist monks, and news media outlets. As part of the ceremonies, our TSA Chairman of the Board Patricia Koval gave an impassioned speech for the opening of the center, of which her and husband Alan Koval's foundation are supporters.
At the end of the opening ceremonies for the KKRCC, a local couple donated an adult pair of Royal Turtles to the center. The pair of turtles were long-term captives, owned by Koh Kong Provincial Fisheries Administration Official Nay Ol, who rescued them from villagers whom had planned on cooking and eating the turtles. The female was purchased from villagers in 2000 and the male several years after that. Due to their Critically Endangered status, the WCS had been trying for over 10 years to incorporate these individuals into the assurance colony—and their persistence paid off. With the wild Cambodian population of Royal Turtles estimated at just a handful of adults, the adult pair will play a significant role in improving genetic diversity for the captive-breeding initiative at the KKRCC.
Left: TSA Chairman of the Board Patricia Koval and and government officials cut the ribbon at the new KKRCC. Right: TSA Board member Walter Sedgwick and Patricia Koval release terrapins at the KKRCC. Credits: Andrew Walde
After all the celebrations, it was right back to business with another set of meetings to discuss with WCS leaders and donors how to build a more effective turtle conservation program with our partners. The various country programs presented on some of their successes and issues, and we discussed how to move turtle conservation from reactive to proactive to increase the impact of the overall program. The following day was kicked off by a talk on wildlife trafficking and defining the turtle trade issue, followed by a discussion on leveraging partnerships, of where I gave a talk on the TSA's model and the various types of partnerships that we have. The final day of the retreat was spent discussing restoring functional turtle populations, how to measure and communicate our results, and how to incorporate the past two weeks of discussion into the core elements of a five-year strategy.
Back row: Steve Platt, Rob Menzi, Paul Calle, Meng Sovannara, Brian Horne, Kalyar Platt, Andrew Walde, Shailendra Singh. Front row: Colin Poole, Joe Walston, Lonnie McCaskill
After the meeting, a group of us headed north to Siem Reap to visit our friends and collaborators at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB). There we saw the impressive efforts being made at on behalf of chelonians, and discussed ways forward for future projects and collaborations.
This trip was what conservation is all about. A group of committed individuals, sharing ideas, and pitching in to make things happen. Releasing critically endangered animals that we have known for over 10 years into the wild is one of those experiences that you just can't describe. It is such a mixed emotion of hope for their future, fear for their survival, and the excitement of re-wilding an animal that is effectively extinct in the wild. All of this, made that much better by getting to share it with the Global Turtle Team.
Andrew Walde and Brian Horne hold a male Southern River Terrapin before release. Credit: Kalyar Platt