Tag Archives: turtles

George death means species extinct


The famed Galapagos giant tortoise Lonesome George has died, according to Ecuadorean officials.

The Galapagos National Park said in a statement that the tortoise, estimated to be about 100 years old, died on Sunday.

He was believed to be the last living member of the Geochelone abigdoni species and had become a symbol of the islands that helped inspire Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution.

Various mates had been provided for Lonesome George over the years in unsuccessful attempts to keep his subspecies alive.

Scientists had said he was not especially old and had expected him to live another few decades at least.

The park said the cause of his death would be investigated.


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Global Effort Launched to Save Turtles from Extinction


ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2012) — The Wildlife Conservation Society announced on April 11 a new strategy that draws on all of the resources and expertise across the institution — from its Zoos and Aquarium, Global Health Program, and Global Conservation Programs — to take direct responsibility for the continued survival of some of the world’s most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles (collectively referred to as turtles). The strategy involves preventing the extinction of at least half of the species appearing in a 2011 report by WCS and other groups that listed the 25 most endangered turtles and tortoises on the planet.

WCS will breed and reintroduce some species, develop assurance colonies (captive groups of animals maintained so that no genetic diversity is lost) for others, and protect another subset with field work. WCS will use its four zoos and aquarium, its health program, and conservation field program to meet this challenge.

Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, Vice President of Species Conservation at WCS, said: “Only by garnering the vast knowledge and resources from across the whole of WCS can we successfully address the threats to the world’s endangered turtles. WCS’s long history and current broad and deep expertise position us to rise to this challenge, and to conserve the threatened species across this ancient, diverse, and fascinating lineage.” WCS will strive to alleviate threats to highly endangered turtles by working closely with relevant governments to react rapidly in nations that are centers of turtle diversity, including Cambodia, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. More than half of the world’s approximately 330 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises are threatened with extinction due to illegal trade and habitat loss. Most of the world’s turtle trade is driven by demand from China, specifically for human consumption, traditional medicines, and the pet trade.

“WCS is a leading organization in the development of comprehensive strategies that combine field and zoo conservation to save this major taxonomic group from an extinction crisis,” said WCS President and CEO Dr Steve Sanderson. “We have the expertise in our parks, in our health program, and in our global conservation field program to meet this challenge.”

WCS will implement threat mitigation programs for four top-priority Critically Endangered species and begin reintroduction and population supplementation programs. Species include: the Burmese starred tortoise (Geochelone platynota), the Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata), the Southern River terrapin (Batagur affinis), and the Central American river turtle (Dermatemys mawii). These programs will focus on reducing the numbers of turtles caught for the commercial turtle trade and, for the three aquatic species, reducing mortality caused by incidental drowning in fishing nets.

WCS has plans to begin recovery of other species suited for zoo breeding programs within the U.S. Offspring produced through this effort will be quarantined at a biosecure facility at WCS’s Bronx Zoo, then transferred to holding facilities in their range countries in the initiation phase of re-introduction programs.

Assurance colonies for additional species will be developed across WCS’s zoos and aquarium in New York, as well as with partners such as Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), Turtle Conservancy (TC), and the Asian Turtle Program (ATP). Species are currently being evaluated for that purpose.

Finally, WCS will establish a captive breeding and head-starting program for imperiled turtle species native to New York State. Off-exhibit, outdoor enclosures will be constructed at the Bronx Zoo for several species, including the spotted turtle (Cyclemys gutatta), Eastern box turtle (Carolina terrapene), and wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta). This head-starting program for New York’s imperiled native turtles will supplement remaining wild populations at a sustained rate.

Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and Bronx Zoo Director, said: “This has been the mission of the Wildlife Conservation Society from the very beginning, to bring its expertise for the achievement of one conservation goal: saving species from extinction. More than a century ago, WCS led the way to save the American bison from extinction in North America by breeding animals at the Bronx Zoo and sending their offspring to wild places in the west. Now our zoos, zoological health program, and field conservationists plan to do the same for some of the world’s most endangered turtles.”

Dr. Paul Calle, WCS Chief Veterinarian, said: “WCS’s zoological health staff will ensure that turtles we breed at our zoos are in the best possible health prior to their release into the wild, and ensure that diseases are not introduced to wild populations during these release efforts. WCS has more than a century of experience caring for reptiles at our zoos and we are confident we can help supplement wild populations with zoo-bred animals.”

WCS continually works with U.S. government agencies in support of turtle conservation. To help promote worldwide turtle conservation, WCS is asking Congress to fully fund the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders Program, whose Critically Endangered Animals Conservation Fund supports several freshwater turtle and tortoise conservation projects around the world.

In addition to its efforts on terrestrial and freshwater turtles, WCS continues work on sea turtles in Nicaragua, Gabon, Sulawesi, and Madagascar.

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Sea turtle choked with 317 plastic pieces found dead on Australian beach


A green sea turtle washed off dead on far North coast of New South Wales beach in Australia with over 300 pieces of plastic debris lodged in its guts.

“Unfortunately we counted 317 pieces of plastic from the lower intestine of the turtle and there is no question what caused the death of this animal,” Rochelle Ferris, General Manager of Australian Seabird Rescue, an organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of marine wildlife, told ABC North Coast NSW TV.

The organization, which carried the autopsy of the dead turtle, called it the worst case of death of an endangered marine animal due to direct ingestion of plastic in the last 15 years.

“130 pieces of plastic was the earlier record but for one turtle with 317 pieces of plastic is telling how much plastic is in our oceans,” Ferris said.

Plastics floating on ocean surface could look like a small tuna fish or some kind of plankton or squid or shelled creatures, which is good sea turtle food, she explained.

According to a recent study, about 36 percent of sea turtles are affected by marine debris, which is 17 times higher than any previous estimate. This is quite an alarming figure for these threatened sea turtles and marine ecosystem, she added.

Most of the debris recovered from dead animals consists of waste from urban and domestic environments including lollypop sticks, plastic bags, lids of bottles and the like that are either thrown overboard from boats or dumped near beaches and swept out to sea.

Reducing the rubbish from urban environments into the ocean would directly protect the fast depleting population of sea turtles, Ferris said.

Green sea turtles are among the most endangered or “critically endangered” list of animals on Earth. Intervention from human activities including illegal fishing and sea pollution from urban waste pose threat to their existence.

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Rare turtle hunted to brink of extinction


BINH DINH — Hunting the highly endangered Annam pond turtle has become popular in the central province of Binh Dinh after the price of a kilogramme of its meat skyrocketed from a few hundred thousand dong to upward of US$1,000.

Seeing the huge profits that the reptile – known as rua dong in Vietnamese – is fetching, many people in Phu My, Phu Cat, An Nhon, and Hoai Nhon districts have taken to it.

Tu and his wife, farmers in Phu Cat, went turtle hunting and did not have time to care for their 2,000-square metre cucumber field. As a result, the entire crop died, but after two months of hunting, the couple have yet to trap a single animal.

Dao, a turtle trader in Phu Cat, said she sold the animals she buys to an agent in the north who had been willing to buy even small rua dong weighing less than 200 grammes.

Local traders said the agents in the north in turn sold the turtles to China for medicinal and other purposes.

Rua dong, also called rua Trung bo, is an endemic species found only in some central Vietnamese provinces.

It has been listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species since 2005.

Nguyen Huu Hao, deputy director of the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said few animals were caught.

Asked why the reptile had not been protected, he said: “It is hard to ensure effective prevention because people mostly go to catch [it] at night and do so stealthily.”

Nguyen Hieu Hoa, head of the province’s Forest Protection Sub-department, however, claimed: “We are taking measures to prevent [it] and protect the endangered turtle.” — VNS

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Circle hooks can save endangered marine turtles in the Coral Triangle


THOUSANDS of endangered marine turtles could be saved in the Coral Triangle region if the fishing industry started using innovative and responsible fishing gear, a WWF analysis shows.

Towards the Adoption of Circle Hooks to Reduce Fisheries Bycatch in the Coral Triangle Region makes a strong case for governments, fishing organizations and fisheries to start implementing Circle Hooks. 

“All it takes is a simple change in fishing gear to help reduce marine turtle bycatch while upholding more efficient and responsible fishing practices,” says Keith Symington, WWF Coral Triangle Bycatch Strategy Leader.

Circle Hooks are simple yet innovative fishing gear that are sharply curved back in a circular shape and have demonstrated a significant reduction in the hooking rate of marine turtles in longline fisheries by as much as 80 percent compared to traditional hooks. Because of its round shape and inward-pointing sharp end, Circle Hooks are found to be less harmful to turtles if swallowed and do not cause much internal damage once pulled out, as opposed to currently used slimmer hooks with a more exposed pointed end that can cause severe damage to turtles when accidentally ingested. 

Studies show that shifting to Circle Hooks maintains previous catch rates of target species at the very least or generates an even higher catch rate of target species in the majority of cases.

Due to their tendency to hook in the mouth, Circle Hooks also increase post-hook survival of fish, leading to harvesting fresher and better quality seafood.

Despite its proven efficacy, Circle Hooks have yet to be standardized and broadly accepted in the region. The continued application of tariffs and import tax on eco-friendly fishing gears poses as one of the obstacles hindering its mainstream use.

“This slow transition to Circle Hooks is as surprising as it is unacceptable,” says Symington. “We need the support of governments and regional bodies to ensure that such readily available and proven effective tools are made accessible to help put a stop to this easily preventable problem.”

Bycatch or the indiscriminate catch of non-target species in fisheries remains to be one of the most critical marine conservation issues in the Coral Triangle today, threatening marine biodiversity and the delicate ecological balance of oceans. In this region alone, tens of thousands of marine turtles are estimated to be accidentally killed each year by longline fishing operations.

“It is imperative for the fishing industry to start adopting more responsible fishing methods if they are to benefit from the growing demand for more responsibly-caught seafood; the use of Circle Hooks provides a win-win solution for all,” adds Symington.

An increasing number of seafood companies and individual fishers have already caught on to the market benefits of using Circle Hooks and have been fully on board WWF’s Circle Hook programme, attesting to the economic and environmental effectiveness of this tool and seeing it as a crucial step towards sustainability.

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‘Act fast to protect environment, prevent extinction of sea turtles’


KUWAIT CITY, June 14: “We should take immediate steps to correct erroneous human practices to protect the environment and prevent the extinction of sea turtles,” says Chairman and Managing Director of The Scientific Center Kuwait (TSCK) Eng Mijbel Al-Mutawa.
Al-Mutawa made the statement at the meeting of the High Committee for Protection of Sea Turtles organized Sunday by TSCK, in coordination with Voluntary Work Center (VWC) and under the patronage of Total — a French Company with vast experience on oil and marine environment protection.
Affirming that VWC Chairperson Sheikha Amthal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah gives high importance on the project, Al-Mutawa revealed the project started in July 2008 and will continue for another three years to prevent the extinction of sea turtles, especially the green turtles, which play a crucial role in balancing the environment.

He said the team in charge of the project closely monitors the marine environment in Kuwait, particularly Qarouh and Um Al-Maradim islands, to protect turtle nests. He pointed out the ongoing tourism and military projects in these islands have disturbed the nesting process of sea turtles whose population has dwindled remarkably over the last few years.
Al-Mutawa explained the team uses a detection device to track the movements of sea turtles as accurate information on the location of this endangered species is vital in protecting them. He added TSCK is not the official body for the protection of sea turtles, but this is part of its volunteer work. He said the center has treated 30 turtles trapped in nylon nets since its inception.
On the other hand, TSCK Deputy Chairman Eng Mohamed Al-Murshid underlined the importance of environment protection in coordination with the concerned authorities. He said the committee will forward a number of recommendations to the authorities to take serious steps to maintain environmental equilibrium.

By Awad Al-Farhan
Special to the Arab Times

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Eaten Into Extinction


The killing and smuggling of turtles for their meat and as an ingredient in Asian medicines is taking an astonishing toll on the creatures worldwide. A few years ago, 25 tons of live turtles were exported from Sumatra to China every single week. That’s just from one island to one country, and it gives you some idea of the scale of the problem.

Now that many Asian turtle populations have been wiped out or pushed to the brink of extinction, foreign countries are turning to the U.S. to meet their insatiable demand for turtle meat. And Florida, one of the few turtle-rich states that has not yet substantially restricted or banned the commercial collection of wild turtles, has become their favorite hunting ground. As Kim Christensen reported in the Los Angeles Times this weekend, “conservationists fear that the U.S. turtle population could be eaten into extinction.”

Turtle Commercial market hunters now scour Florida’s freshwater lakes and rivers, and haul off truckloads of softshell turtles at an alarming rate for export to Asia. They use long fishing lines with hundreds of baited hooks, snagging not only turtles but also other aquatic life. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates that 3,000 pounds of live turtles are flown out of Tampa International Airport every week, with thousands more from other major airports in the state.

Fortunately, the turtles have a friend in Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is calling for an all-out ban on the turtle trade. He recently wrote in a letter to the state’s wildlife policymakers: “According to many of the turtle biologists, if the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is not vigilant and does not act swiftly we could be in grave danger of irreparable damage to our turtle population. Based on the information, I would urge that the commission move toward a complete ban on the harvesting of our wild turtles.”

The Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare organizations are supporting the ban as a necessary policy reform to protect Florida’s turtles from cruel treatment and near extinction. A group of 32 leading turtle experts, brought together by the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, has recommended a permanent end to the commercial harvest of turtles in Florida. And every major newspaper in the state — including the Orlando Sentinel, St. Petersburg Times, and Tampa Tribune — has weighed in with an editorial calling for stronger turtle protections.

Turtle_2 One principle of modern wildlife management is that wild animals are a public resource, and should not be killed for private commercial gain. That’s why market hunting ended in the early twentieth century, and why state wildlife agencies established hunting seasons, bag limits, and other checks on excessive practices. Collecting thousands of Florida’s turtles simply to make a buck by selling them to Asian apothecaries and gourmands flies in the face of scientific wildlife management.

Florida doesn’t allow the commercial trade in wild alligators, flamingos, manatees, or other iconic animals associated with the state’s heritage and natural beauty. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission should heed Gov. Crist’s advice and act quickly to stop the ravaging of these reptiles — before it’s too late for the softshell turtles.

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