Feb 26, 2019 | Turtle Survival Alliance |
Turtle Survival A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE 2017 RICK HUDSON FROM THE PRESIDENT'S DESK Putting Boots on the Ground in Times of Need: It's What We Do From Texas to Madagascar, it seems that when turtles are in trouble, the TSA is there to lend a hand. It's just what we do, and I believe that we do it well. I'm incredibly proud of our network of staff and volunteers that rise to the occasion time and again when duty calls. It was a Saturday afternoon, mid-September, when the TSA got a call from Sal Scibetta of the Hill Country in New Braunfels, Texas. They had just received a confiscation of over 300 Mexican turtles, including some pretty rare box turtles, and were a bit overwhelmed with the task at hand. After speaking with Sal, I called Jordan Gray, who had just started as the TSA's Communications Coordinator, and asked if he could lend a hand as he was already in Austin preparing for a Drink Beer, Save Turtles event. Jordan swung into action and quickly mobilized an A-Team of some of the best husbandry and veterinary talent that the Lone Star State has to offer. A few days later I spoke with Sal again and he reflected in glowing terms about the role that the TSA played in helping to bring some structure to a previously chaotic situation. "Being able to reach out to the TSA and receive assistance with manpower and exper- tise was critical in the success of triaging and setting up long-term care regimes for over 300 turtles in a matter of days," he said. "This was not something that could have been done solely in-house." His words got me thinking...this is what sets the TSA apart: our ability to quickly mobilize resources and put boots on the ground. At our core, we are a grassroots organization, accessible to anyone who wants to help turtles, fueled by a collective passion that drives us to try and create a better world for our chelonian friends. Fast forward one month. I am spending my last day in Madagascar in the capital city of Antananarivo, writing my overdue articles for the magazine and working on budget with our Director, Herilala Randriamahazo. I count on this "down time" after every October trip to compose my thoughts and articulate my experiences from the past ten days into an article that accurately reflects this increasingly complex program. When we started working in Madagascar in 2010, and became aware of the growing trade with Radiated Tortoises and knew we had to do something to bring awareness to the situation and try to curb poaching. We accomplished that fairly effectively, with the unfortunate (though not totally unexpected) consequence of THOUSANDS of confiscated tortoises. We knew we would see confiscations and would need to prepare to handle them, but nothing could have prepared us for the volume that we are currently managing: over 8,000 tortoises under the TSA's care in Madagascar! We are effectively running refugee centers for displaced tortoises. The impact of that number on our budget is huge, in terms of new staff, new facilities, and vet care, but we have managed to rise to the occasion and care for them well, thanks to our many donors and supporters. In fact, once tortoises arrive at our Tortoise Conservation Center, the mortality rate is less than 1%, an impressive stat by anyone's standards. We didn't ask to be placed in this situation, but rising to the occasion is entirely necessary if we are to prevail in saving the Radiated Tortoise from extinction in the wild. Make no mistake: in ten years, we could potentially be looking at another Ploughshare Tortoise disaster where we are scrambling to save the last remnant wild populations. The last thing I want is to look back at this time in my career with regrets. I want to know that we fought the good fight and did all we could to save this iconic species. Please lock arms with us and help us make good on our pledge to save this species. Many thanks, or as we say in Madagascar, Misotra Besaka. ABOUT THE COVER: By the time the Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska) was formally described and recognized as a distinct species by science in 2007, it was ranked Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. With no known wild nesting populations remaining, this denizen of the vast Sundarbans region of India and Bangladesh (and formerly Myanmar) is regarded as one of the most threatened chelonians on the planet. However, in 2010 the TSA and their partners in Bangladesh (Peter Praschag, Rupali Ghosh, Vienna Zoo) and India (West Bengal Forest Dept.) begin establishing breeding groups of B. baska with terrapins that had been in captive situations long-term. The first successful captive reproduction occurred in both countries in 2012 and since then nearly 600 terrapins have been hatched to date. This bi-national collaborative conservation effort has brought a species from the cusp of extinc- tion, and through captive breeding has assured that this species will not be lost. See full story pp.48. BOARD MEMBERS James Breheny Andre Daneault William Dennler Susie Ellis, PhD Michael Fouraker Tim Gregory, PhD Rick Hudson, President John Iverson, PhD Patricia Koval, LLD, Chair Dwight Lawson, PhD, Vice-President Kim Lovich Lonnie McCaskill John Mitchell Russ Mittermeier Colin Poole Hugh Quinn, PhD Anders Rhodin, MD Walter Sedgwick Frank Slavens CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Andrew Walde DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT Ilze Astad ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF Jan Holloway Janet Fincannon Jordan Gray David Hedrick TURTLE SURVIVAL CENTER STAFF Cris Hagen Carol Alvarez, RMA, NCPT Clinton Doak Nathan Haislip, MS RANGE COUNTRY PROGRAM LEADERS German Forero-Medina, PhD Kalyar Platt, PhD Herilala Radriamahazo, PhD Shailendra Singh, PhD Turtle Survival Alliance 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE instagram.com/TurtleSurvival facebook.com/TurtleSurvival twitter.com/TurtleSurvival TABLE OF CONTENTS FEATURES Inside Cover From the President's Desk 5 Turtles in Trouble 8 Zhou's Box Turtle Exchange 10 Turtle Survival Center 50 Australia RANGE COUNTY UPDATES EXLUSIVES, NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS PARTNER NEWS 2 Meet the Staff 4 Board Updates 58 Behler Award 60 Member Spotlights 62 Outreach 68 Donor Recognition 15 NAFTRG 18 Madagascar 23 Belize 26 Cambodia 28 Colombia 31 China 32 Indonesia 34 India 38 Myanmar 44 Bangladesh 48 Northern River Terrapins (Cover Story) 3 Partners 54 TSA Partner News 56 TSA Europe 63 Brewery Partnerships Contents of this publication should be cited as: Author. (2017) Article Title. Turtle Survival, pp. xx-xx. A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 1 JORDAN GRAY MEET THE STAFF ABOUT THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE Jordan joined the TSA in February 2017 as the new Communications and Outreach Coordinator. A native of Virginia, he has lived in numerous American states and abroad, all of which have provided various opportunities for him to cultivate his passion for chelonians. Involvement with conservation and wildlife research began early for Jordan as he would regularly accompany his father into the woods to perform field research. While studying at Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia, Jordan cofounded the Terrapin Educational Research Program of Savannah (T.E.R.P.S). After graduation, he relocated to Texas to become an animal care and outreach technician for the Houston Zoo. There he began working with the Turtle Survival Alliance through the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group. Ultimately, Jordan hopes to utilize his passion for educational outreach to foster an appreciation for turtles and tortoises as well as promote stewardship of their habitats. "Zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century" a bold pledge by an emboldened group of chelonian conservationists. The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) is in its 17th year of this commitment to the tortoise and freshwater turtle species of the six continents on which they reside. Created in 2001 in response to "The Asian Turtle Crisis," the title given to the rampant and unsustainable harvest of Asian turtles, the TSA has since expanded to create a global chelonian conservation network. During its first four years, the TSA oper- ated as a task force for the IUCN's (World Conservation Union) Tortoise and Fresh- water Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG). In 2005, the TSA sought an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, with a home base at the Fort Worth Zoo, Texas. As the TSA's global reach grew, so did its need for restructuring, and a Board of Directors was instituted in 2009. With this growth also came the need for the construction of a facility to house and provide assurance colonies for some of the world's most endangered species of chelonians. Thus, the Turtle Survival Center, now home to 700 specimens, was created in the back- woods of coastal South Carolina. The Turtle Survival Alliance continues to be a global force in the effort to provide dynamic in situ and ex situ conservation initiatives including breeding programs, assurance colonies, and management plans; field research and culturally sen- sitive conservation initiatives; hands on, readable, and viewable public outreach; and sharing information, techniques, and communication throughout the chelonian conservation community. Through work- ing collaborations with zoos, aquariums, universities, private turtle enthusiasts, veterinarians, government agencies, and conservation organizations, the TSA is widely recognized as a catalyst for turtle conservation, with a reputation for swift and decisive action. As anthropogenic threats such as habitat loss, poaching, and pollution continue to wreak havoc on turtle and tortoise popu- lations worldwide, the TSA is committed, now more than ever, to fight for the pres- ervation of these animals. DECEMBER 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL 2 PARTNERS Partners are the Key to Our Success The Turtle Survival Alliance is proud to acknowledge the following organizations that make our work possible. The organizations listed here provide a range of services supporting our mission, including guidance, networking, strategic planning, funding, husbandry, rescue, animal management, marketing and public relations, field research, logistical and technical support, salaried positions, and other resources. A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 3 BOARD OF DIRECTORS New Board Members Appointed The TSA welcomed two new members this year to our Board of Directors, Kim Lovich and Tim Gregory, PhD. Kim continues to uphold the tradition of solid support and backing of San Diego Zoo Global. Tim "hit the ground running" and has already made a huge impact on the TSA and now chairs our Development Committee. We look forward to many years of working with these energetic and resourceful champions for turtle conservation. KIM LOVICH is currently San Diego Zoo Global's Curator of Herpe- tology & Ichthyology where she manages one of the world's largest and most diverse living herpetological collections. Kim has over 27 years' experience working at Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facilities. She has managed and helped establish head-start programs for Green Sea Turtles and Tailed Frogs in Canada, Fiji Iguanas in Fiji, West African Slender-snouted Crocodiles in Cote d'Ivoire, and Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs and Western Pond Turtles in California. Kim is an accomplished scientific illustrator and has published drawings, book chapters, and papers, all relating to reptile and amphibian taxonomy, husbandry standards, and field monitoring techniques. She manages the Fijian Banded Iguana SSP and conservation fund and is actively involved in crocodilian con- servation initiatives as well, serving in leadership roles for both the Gharial and the West African Slender-snouted Crocodile and in the IUCN's Iguana and Crocodile Specialist Groups. Kim's primary focus continues to be on the managed care of herpetological collections with emphasis on head-start and assurance colony capacity building with the ultimate goal of recovery of endangered and threatened species. TIM GREGORY retired in 2007 after 24 years in the biopharmaceutical industry. His primary area of research was vaccine development for the prevention of HIV infection and AIDS, and he has more than 75 peer reviewed publications to his name. He was progressively promoted to positions of increased responsibility, to Staff Scientist and Senior Director of Process Sciences at one of the nation's leading biotechnology companies, Genentech, Inc. Since 2007, Tim has been an entrepreneur in the biopharmaceutical industry and was an initial investor and active advisor in StemCentrx, Inc., focusing on development of oncology drugs designed to eliminate cancer stem cells. But Tim has two true passions in life: chelonians and plants. He has botanical expertise in multiple plant groups with special emphasis in the cycads, having described five species from Mexico. He is an advisor on cycad taxonomy and horticulture to the U.C. Botanical Garden (UCBG) and is a founding member of the Directors Advi- sory Board for UCBG and Chairman 2011-2015. He is a principal Scientific Advisor on botanical research at The Huntington Library and Botanical Garden, San Marino, CA. Tim loves Mexico and since 2004 has participated in numerous botanical exploration trips there. He has been a member of the IUCN Cycad Specialist Group since 2000 and is Chairman of the Conservation Committee. Tim currently serves on the BOD of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America and is Chairman of their Conservation Committee. Most importantly, Tim has loved turtles since age eight. DECEMBER 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL 4 TSA Programs make an Impact for 20 of the Top 25 Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles Rick Hudson, Andrew Walde, Patricia Koval, and Jordan Gray The conservation organizations collectively known as the Turtle Conservation Coalition released "Turtles in Trouble: The World's 25+ Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles2018" in February 2018. This report, which follows the previous report published in 2011, reviews the top 50 most at-risk species of tortoises and freshwater turtles. These 50 chelonians are selected based on survival prospects and extinction risks for the individual species. The Turtle Conservation Coalition is composed of biologists from the Chelonian Research Foundation, Conservation International, Global Wildlife Conservation, IUCN/SSCTortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservancy, Turtle Conservation Fund, Turtle Survival Alliance, and Wildlife Conservation Society. Turn the page to see how the TSA makes an impact for 20 of the top 25 chelonians listed in the 2018 report! FEATURE A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 5 Red-crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga) The TSA-India program works to protect this species in the Chambal River of India through nest protection and head starting efforts. Photo credit: Saurav Gawan Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska) Our TSA-India and Bangladesh programs work to re-establish this species in the Sundarbans, as well as maintain assurance colonies for the species at multiple locations in both countries. Photo credit: Shailendra Singh Ploughshare Tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) Driven to near extinction by the illegal wildlife trade, the TSA receives and rehabilitates confiscated tortoises for an assurance colony. Photo credit: Maurice Rodriguez Burmese Roofed Turtle (Batagur trivittata) The TSA-Myanmar program works in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Myanmar Forest Department, and the Yadanabon Zoo to protect the last remaining individuals of this species in the wild and maintain captive assurance colonies in Myanmar. Photo credit: Brian Horne Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) The TSA works in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Forest Department to restore wild populations in Myanmar. Additionally, we maintain multiple assurance colonies for this species in Myanmar and the United States. Photo credit: Kalyar Platt Hoge's Side-necked Turtle (Mesoclemmys hogei) The TSA collaborates with Rainforest Trust and the NGO Biodiversitas to protect critical habitat and study the ecology of this species in Brazil. Photo credit: Brian Horne Dahl's Toad-headed Turtle (Mesoclemmys dahli) The TSA-Colombia program in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and university partners studies this species in Colombia, and works to protect critical habitat. Photo credit: German Forero-Medina Central American River Turtle (Dermatemys mawii) The TSA collaborates with the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) to maintain an assurance colony, conducts field surveys, and promote community awareness activities for this species in Belize. Photo credit: Dustin Smith Yunnan Box Turtle (Cuora yunnanensis) Long feared extinct, this species was recently rediscovered. The TSA assisted the Kunming Institute of Zoology in creating captive habitats for breeding this species in China. Photo credit: Cris Hagen The TSA directly impacts the survival of 20 of the world's Top 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles. DECEMBER 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL 6 Golden-headed Box Turtle (Cuora aurocapitata) Near extinct in the wild, the TSA maintains an assurance colony of this species at our Turtle Survival Center to help ensure their survival. Photo credit: Jordan Gray McCord's Box Turtle (Cuora mccordi) Functionally extinct in the wild, the TSA maintains an assurance colony to ensure the survival of this species at our Turtle Survival Center. Photo credit: Cris Hagen Three-striped Box Turtle (Cuora trifasciata) Near extinct in the wild, the TSA maintains this species at our Turtle Survival Center. Photo credit: Peter Praschag Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) The world's rarest and most endangered turtle, the TSA works in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Suzhou Zoo to reproduce the last pair of this species through artificial reproductive technology. Photo credit: Gerald Kuchling Vietnamese Pond Turtle (Mauremys annamensis) Extinct in the wild, the TSA maintains an assurance colony of this species at our Turtle Survival Center to help ensure their survival. Photo credit: Rick Reed Palawan Forest Turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis) The TSA assisted in a multi-organizational effort to triage and return nearly 4,000 confiscated turtles to the streams of Palawan, Philippines. Photo credit: Turtle Conservancy Sulawesi Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi) The TSA supports field initiatives for this species in Sulawesi as well as maintains an assurance colony at our Turtle Survival Center. Photo credit: Cris Hagen Rote Island Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi) Functionally extinct in the wild, the TSA maintains an assurance colony of this species at our Turtle Survival Center to ensure their survival. Photo credit: Cris Hagen Southeast Asian Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle (Chitra chitra) The TSA has sent veterinary support to assist with high-mortality issues with this species in Thailand. Photo credit: Gerald Kuchling Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis) The TSA collaborates with the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Royal Government of Cambodia's Fisheries Administration, and Wildlife Reserves Singapore to protect, repatriate, and maintain assurance colonies for the last known population of this species in Cambodia. Photo credit: Mengey Eng Zhou's Box Turtle (Cuora zhoui) Wild populations of this turtle are not known to exist. The TSA maintains an assurance colony of this species at our Turtle Survival Center, and works with the Mnster Zoo to manage genetic diversity in the captive population. Photo credit: Torsten Blanck The TSA positively impacts approximately 1/3 of all species of tortoises and turtles on Earth. A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 7 In early June 2017, the TSA's Cris Hagen, Director of Animal Management, and Clinton Doak, Chelonian Keeper, escorted the first international exchange of captive bred Zhou's Box Turtles (Cuora zhoui). This critically endangered box turtle has a known total worldwide population of less than 150 individuals. Only about 30 of those individuals are wild caught animals. The rest are the result of captive breeding, with a high percentage of those offspring coming from just two wild-caught adult pairs in Germany. This is the only described species of turtle in the world that has yet to be documented in the wild and is currently believed to originate somewhere along the border area of northern Vietnam and Guangxi Province, China. The International Center for the Conser- vation of Turtles (IZS) at the Mnster Zoo is managed by Elmar Meier and is one of the most successful endangered turtle breeding facilities in the world. The Mnster Zoo received three captive-bred subadult females bred from wild-caught parents in the U.S. in exchange for two unrelated captive-bred males. Now the last known females residing in the U.S. have a renewed chance to contribute offspring for the future of the species, and the IZS has obtained a valuable new bloodline to bolster the genetic diversity in their highly successful breeding program. TSA staff spent one week in Germany and Austria visiting and exchanging information with three institutional and nine private turtle collections, including the top Cuora breeders in Europe. This type of networking is crucial to gain experience and knowl- edge about the many different ways of successfully managing captive populations of turtles. International Exchange Improves Survival Outlook for Zhou's Box Turtle A mature captive bred male Zhou's Box Turtle (Cuora zhoui) from The International Centre for the Conservation of Turtles at Allwetterzoo Mnster sent to the United States for captive conservation efforts. PHOTO CREDIT: ELMAR MEIER Cris Hagen ZHOU'S BOX TURTLE EXCHANGE DECEMBER 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL 8 From left to right, Cris Hagen (TSA Director of Animal Management), Dr. Thomas Wilms (Director, Allwetterzoo Mnster), and Elmar Meier (ICCT) unpack three captive bred female Zhou's Box Turtle (Cuora zhoui) upon their arrival from the United States to Germany for the first international bloodline exchange for one of the world's most critically endangered turtle species. PHOTO CREDIT: CLINTON DOAK A Zhou's Box Turtle peers out of its habitat at the International Centre for the Conservation of Turtles (ICCT) at the Mnster Zoo. The ICCT has been maintaining breeding groups of Zhou's Box Turtles since its inception in 2003. To date, the ICCT has produced ~100 offspring, which is by far the most successful captive conservation breeding effort of C. zhoui anywhere in the world. Continued collaborative efforts and bloodline exchanges will be crucial for the long-term management of this extremely rare species. PHOTO CREDIT: CRIS HAGEN Typical mating behavior, including neck biting, is exhibited between a captive pair of Zhou's Box Turtles at the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina. Captive reproduction of C. zhoui in the United States has been sporadic and limited. The first successful hatching took place in 2004 at David Lee's Tortoise Reserve in North Carolina. In total, 11 offspring have been produced in the United States; all but two from a single founder pair. PHOTO CREDIT: CRIS HAGEN A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 9 Now in its fifth year, the Turtle Survival Center (TSC) continues to grow in size and in number of successfully bred species. Captive reproduction at the TSC was lower in the 2017 season than expected. However, there were a few species that did very well, such as Vietnamese Pond Turtles (Mauremys annamensis), Red-necked Pond Turtles (Mauremys nigricans), and Big-headed Turtles (Platysternon megacephalum). Other hatchlings include the Southeast Asian Box Turtle (Cuora amboinensis), Indochinese Box Turtle (Cuora galbinifrons), Yellow-margined Box Turtle (Cuora flavomarginata), McCord's Box Turtle (Cuora mccordi), Southern Vietnam Box Turtle (Cuora picturata), Indian Spotted Pond Turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii), Spiny Hill Turtle (Heosemys spinosa), Serrated Hinge-back Tortoise (Kinixys erosa), and Beale's Eyed Turtle (Sacalia bealei). Successful reproduction of Cuora mccordi, Cuora picturata, and Geoclemys hamiltonii are firsts for the TSC. This hatchling McCord's Box Turtle (Cuora mccordi) was discovered in the spring in an adult enclosure and is a first for the TSC. PHOTO CREDIT: CRIS HAGEN These Indochinese Box Turtles (Cuora galbinifrons) offspring are hatched from an adult group rescued in 2002 from a market in Hong Kong by a con- cerned citizen and donated to the TSC in 2015. PHOTO CREDIT: CLINTON DOAK The TSC has been successfully reproducing Big-headed Turtles (Platysternon megacephalum) for the past three years. PHOTO CREDIT: CRIS HAGEN The TSC hatched it's first Indian Spotted Pond Turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) in 2017. PHOTO CREDIT: CRIS HAGEN Two Beale's Eyed Turtles (Sacalia bealei) were hatched at the TSC this year. PHOTO CREDIT: CRIS HAGEN The TSC had a pleasant surprise this September when this hatchling Southern Vietnam Box Turtle (Cuora picturata) was discovered in an adult enclosure. This hatchling is the first successful reproduction for this species at the TSC. PHOTO CREDIT: CRIS HAGEN Significant Breedings TURTLE SURVIVAL CENTER Cris Hagen DECEMBER 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL 10 One of seven Forsten's Tortoises hatched at the Turtle Survival Center since 2016. PHOTO CREDIT: JORDAN GRAY A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 11 TURTLE SURVIVAL CENTER Construction at the Turtle Survival Center The Turtle Survival Center (TSC) contin- ues to grow in leaps and bounds. For the 2016/2017 construction cycle, we broke ground on two major construction projects. Our largest project to date, we began construction of a second Cuora Complex in October 2016. When completed, this complex will provide enough enclosures for the remaining founder pairs of the genus Cuora currently at the TSC, as well as provide some additional rearing space for juveniles. The finished complex will contain a total of 90 enclosures - including 75 semi-terrestrial and 15 aquatic enclo- sures - and measure 33.5 m by 12.2 m (110 ft. by 40 ft.). Throughout the winter months (i.e., construction season), we focused on the foundation, including laying concrete block, installing drainage and fill lines, handcrafting concrete ponds, and erecting the steel frame for fencing and shade cloth. None of this would have been possible without numerous volunteers spending countless hours helping at every stage. This complex is scheduled to be completed in the 2017/2018 construction season in time for breeding pairs to be move in mid-spring. In 2016, we began outlining an intern pro- gram at the TSC. We were very fortunate to secure funding to establish housing needed to implement the program. When we initial- ly renovated the site of the TSC, a resi- dence was removed so a site was available. However, after several years of growth, we had to remove trees and grade the site with heavy machinery, ensure the septic and water lines were still properly working, and more. After site preparation was complete and the house landed, we called on a few local contractors who assisted us when we needed expert advice and skill sets. After installing a handicap accessible deck, new HVAC system, and electric meter, we were ready for interns. This housing unit imme- diately expanded our educational capacity. Our first two interns completed the summer 2017 program and we were able to host international staff after the TSA confer- ence. For more information about the TSC internship program, be sure to see the call for applicants on page 14. Nathan Haislip The Cuora Complex II is the largest structure erected to date at the TSC and will provide homes for many breeding pairs of Asian box turtles, genus Cuora. PHOTO CREDIT: NATHAN HAISLIP DECEMBER 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL 12 TSC Facilities Manager and Lead Keeper Nathan Haislip leads Kurt Buhlmann, Tim Gregory, Lonnie McCaskill, and other guests out of the Cuora Complex. PHOTO CREDIT: STEVEN IVES TSC TOUR This August, the Turtle Survival Alliance provided an exclu- sive opportunity for TSA Members to tour our Turtle Survival Center in Cross, South Carolina. Attended by over 180 guests, the tour of our flagship assurance facility kicked off this year's 15th Annual Symposium on the Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles. Split into 7 more intimate groups, the attendees were given the opportunity to closely view, photograph, and learn about the facility and its roughly 700 inhabitants by the TSC's expert staff. After touring the facilities, guests were treated to a catered lunch and cocktails, providing an opportune environment for symposium goers to make new connections and reconnect with past ones. The TSA could not be more proud of the hard work put in by our em- ployees and volunteers to share an instrumental piece toward our mission of "zero turtle extinctions". This new housing facility was completed in May 2017 and allows the TSC to host an intern program as well as conduct training programs. PHOTO CREDIT: NATHAN HAISLIP A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 13 Gerald Kuchling and other guests tour through the Sulawesi Forest Turtle enclosures in the Greenhouse. PHOTO CREDIT: STEVEN IVES Deadline for Spring 2018 internship application is April 15th Start Date can vary based on availability after May 1st Key Benefits: Gain hands-on experience with the day to day operations of a chelonian conservation center. Work with and learn about many aspects of some of the most endangered chelonians in the world. Develop basic veterinary care techniques as they apply to captive chelonian husbandry. For more information including responsibilities, expectations, qualifications, costs, and how to apply visit our website, www.turtlesurvival.org/get-involved/chelonian-internships. Lyndsi GIlbert Regina Seiler 2018 INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITY The Chelonian Internship Program is perfect for undergraduates and graduate students who plan to pursue a career in conservation and captive management of turtles and tortoises. DECEMBER 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL 14 RANGE COUNTRY UPDATE 2017: A Year of Expansion in Unexpected Places NORTH AMERICAN FRESHWATER TURTLE RESEARCH GROUP The 2017 survey year for the Turtle Sur- vival Alliance's North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group (TSA-NAFTRG) was extremely eventful. Since joining the TSA in 2010, the group has found ways to expand our reach through new study sites, participants, and target species. 2017 continued this trend, experiencing growth in all three areas. TSA-NAFTRG embarked upon our 18th year of continued study at our Florida springs sites this March, beginning with a collaborative project with Dr. Jerry Johnston and Dr. Joe Mitchell at Ichetucknee Springs. We successfully sampled this site for the 4th year, capturing over 300 turtles in two days. This same trip continued with samples at Wekiwa, Rock, Blue, Weeki Wachee, Manatee, Fanning, and Peacock springs, resulting in the capture of over 1,000 turtles in a 10-day sampling session. Unfortunately, for the first time in our 18-year monitoring, this year's research has exposed a systemic health issue among a number of the Log- gerhead Musk Turtles (Sternotherus minor minor) in Blue Springs. Additionally, we have quantified a statistical drop-off in occurrences of this species at Wekiwa and Rock Springs. We are in the process of looking into these issues and hope to have answers soon. Meanwhile, Texas saw the 5th year of sam- pling at Comal Springs in New Braunfels. During four quarterly trips to the site this year, over 1,400 turtles were captured and processed. Additionally, we have begun a new off-shoot project at Comal Springs examining the health of the local population of Common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina). Throughout the history of this project, only 22 snappers have been docu- mented, nearly all with carapace pitting, skin lesions, and extensive leech loads. This issue presents a source of intrigue as a congruent spring-fed habitat in close proximity to our site has an abundance of this species with minimal afflictions. To assist us in this effort, Oklahoma City Zoo veterinarian Jennifer D'Agostino successfully began taking blood samples from specimens at the site this November. We look forward to getting a better understanding of what is occurring in Comal. Stay tuned! Our Florida team poses with an assemblage of freshwater turtles at our research site in Manatee Springs, Florida. PHOTO CREDIT: ANONYMOUS Greyson Offermann and Michael Skibsted show their TSA pride while holding two Texas Cooters in New Braunfels, Texas. PHOTO CREDIT: JORDAN GRAY Eric Munscher A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 15 2017 also marked the second year of sam- pling Bull Creek, a tributary of Lake Austin. Adjacent to the County Line on the Lake barbecue restaurant in Austin, Texas, this tributary is an extremely productive area for freshwater turtles. Having performed only three sampling sessions since September 2016, we've been able to capture and mark over 500 individual specimens representing six species. Moreover, the hospitality and enthusiasm of The County Line owners and patrons has been equally incredible. The County Line, in collaboration with Hops and Grain Brewing and the TSA, hosted "Turtlemania" on World Turtle Day in May, and "Turtlemania 2" during our September sampling event there. Both events were celebrated under the TSA's popular theme of "Drink Beer, Save Turtles!" In Harris County, Texas, Eric Munscher and his team have made new discoveries in their studies of the Western Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii). The August and September trapping sessions for this research project were unfortunately canceled due to the landfall of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane that brought historic flooding and devastation not only to Harris County but other large parts of East Texas. More than a week after the hurricane flooded the area, Texas Parks and Wild- life Department contacted TSA-NAFTRG Director Eric Munscher and scientist Jordan Gray about a large, 90lb Western Alligator Snapping Turtle that had been rescued off of Memorial Drive adjacent to the Buffalo Bayou at 4:00 AM that morning. The turtle was taken to the Wildlife Center of Texas where Eric and Jordan discovered that the individual had been previously marked by the team in February. The animal had moved approximately 2,000 feet (600 m) from its original collection location. Because this was a historically significant flooding event in the United States' history, this and future data we collect may potentially provide quanti- tative and qualitative information regarding this species' ability to handle extreme flood- ing events. Trapping will commence at this site once water levels return to normal. Up in Pennsylvania, TSA-NAFTRG scientist Andrew Weber and the TurtleRoom Execu- tive Director Steve Enders officially kicked off our long-term North American Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) monitoring project. In September, the team captured a number of Wood Turtles at both of our study sites. Continued sampling of these locations will occur throughout the Autumn and start again in the early Spring of 2018. Lastly, we were able to welcome Marc Dupuis-Dsormeaux into the TSA-NAF- TRG fold. The TSA-NAFTRG owes much of its expansion and success to its ability to broaden our reach through volunteers and collaboration. We invite everyone to join us for our sampling sessions and find out what it means when we say "We are turtle rich." ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, Disney VoluntEARS grant, The Turtle Room, Sante Fe College CONTACT: Eric Munscher, SWCA Environmental Consultants 10245 West Little York Road, Suite 600 Houston, Texas 77040 [firstname.lastname@example.org] Steve Enders (left) and Andy Weber measure the plastron of a North American Wood Turtle at one of our research sites in Pennsylvania. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA WEBER Marc Dupuis-Dsormeaux Marc Dupuis-Dsormeaux is a spatial ecologist who works both in Kenya and in Canada. His PhD work was conducted at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, where he studied landscape prey-traps at openings in electrical fences meant for migrating elephants. His work now focuses on hyena and lion landscape partitioning as well as human-wildlife conflicts at community sites near wildlife conservancies. In Canada, Marc has studied raccoons (look for his research on PBS Nature: Raccoon Nation), squirrels, birds, and of course turtles! His turtle work is three-fold: road mortality mitigation, population studies, and habitat colonization. He leads a group of citizen scientists who monitor roads in Toronto for wildlife mortality in order to identify hot spots and plan future mitigation. Marc is currently a postdoctoral visitor at York University working with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, where he is examining how various turtle species have colonized a wetland complex on a 500-ha artificial peninsula in downtown Toronto. DECEMBER 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL 16 TSA-NAFTRG Director Eric Munscher and Carl J. Franklin measure the shell depth of a 70lb (32kg) male Western Alligator Snapping Turtle. PHOTO CREDIT: JULIA SCRUGGS A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 17 RANGE COUNTRY UPDATE Rick Hudson, Christina Castellano and Herilala Randriamahazo MADAGASCAR Refining A Multifaceted Strategy to Address the Extinction Crisis of Madagascar's Radiated Tortoise The imperative to halt the extinction crisis of Madagascar's imperiled Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) has grown into the TSA's largest and most complex range country program. Together with our partner, Utah's Hogle Zoo (UHZ), we launched an ambitious and comprehensive Confiscation to Reintroduction Strategy that involves four critical components, each of which must work in tandem for the plan to be successful over the long term. These components include: law enforcement, community engagement, reintroduction/field site conservation, and at the heart of all these activities, our Tortoise Conservation Center (TCC). Recent strategic planning exercises have identified the need to expand each of these elements, including new staff, facilities, training, equipment, and resources, all of which translate to the need to greatly expand our budget for this program. A REFUGEE CAMP FOR TORTOISES: CONFISCATIONS CONTINUE TO MOUNT While the number of tortoise confiscations decreased in 2017, TSA Madagascar is now responsible for the care of over 8,000 tortoises with 6,700 of these at the TCC, another 1,000 at the new center in Itampolo, and the rest at our triage center in Antananarivo (Tana). We are essentially running refugee camps for tortoises that have been displaced by an incessant trade in both adults for bush meat and juveniles for illegal pet markets in Asia. The vast majority are Radiated Tortoises, but also include 100 Northern Spider Tortoises (Pyxis arachnoides brygooi), eight Southern Spider Tortoises (Pyxis arachnoides oblonga), and 16 Ploughshare Tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora). We had to significantly increase our animal care staff and now have ten tortoise keepers, including two Leads, at the TCC and Tana, with another Lead needed in Itampolo within the foreseeable future. Despite the escalating tortoise poaching crisis and the need for continuous expansion, the exceptionally low mortality rate that we This young Ploughshare Tortoise survived an arduous journey, being confiscated in India and then returned to the TSA's triage unit in Madagascar. This represents a stellar example of two TSA country programs working in tandem to secure a future for this critically endangered tortoise. PHOTO CREDIT: SHEENA KOETH DECEMBER 2017 TURTLE SURVIVAL 18 are experiencing (less than 1% once tor- toises reach the TCC) is a cause for hope in our fight to preserve Madagascar's beleaguered tortoises. The astonishingly high survival rate is due primarily to the expertise and dedication of our staff veter- inarian, Ny Aina Tiana Rakotoarisoa, who works tirelessly to ensure proper husband- ry and veterinary care for our tortoises immediately following confiscations at the Ivato airport in Tana, and while visiting the TCC and various triage centers in the south on a regular basis. The 8,000+ pop- ulation of tortoises that the TSA currently cares for will certainly grow while we refine our reintroduction strategy in 2018. TORTOISE CONSERVATION CENTER New facilities at the TCC include a tortoise hospital and treatment center, courtesy of our friends at the British Chelonia Group, a dining/meeting pavilion, and expanded staff quarters and office space. We also have two four-wheel drive trucks donated by Utah's Hogle Zoo, which have become essential as we are increasingly called upon to move tortoise confiscations or respond to poaching threats. In addition to the constant need to build new Radiated Tortoise enclosures, we now have a home for our group of Pyxis a. oblonga. We expect this group to thrive here as the natural forest within the TCC supports a free-ranging population of this subspecies. As well as providing refuge for confiscated endangered tortoises, the TCC provides protected thorn forest habitat to other native fauna, integrating the center's primary role with broader ecosystem preservation. Along with the discovery of wild Southern Spider Tortoises within the TCC, the protected forest area serves as a corridor for ranging troupes of Ring-tailed Lemurs and provides refuge to at least one species of nocturnal lemur. The bird life is particularly diverse and abundant here as well, largely because of the availability of water. Unfortunately, our water supply was interrupted this year because of a pump failure down the line and staff are spending valuable time transporting water from a nearby river, necessitating improvements to our water catchment and storage capacity in 2018. Plans for 2018 include Phase I of our Com- munity Outreach Center (COC), which was supported by a special fundraising event called ZooBrew at UHZ. To be built on a site just outside the fenced core TCC area, the COC will help us engage the four local communities, collectively known as the Ala Mahavelo Association. This coalition has donated 200+ hectares of good spiny-forest habitat for our tortoise sanctuary, of which eleven are fenced and under development. It is imperative that we build strong and lasting relations with the Association so they regard the TCC as an asset which they are proud of and want to protect. Currently, these four communities benefit from receiving water from the TCC while selling us tortoise food; we also employ village members as keepers, guards and gardeners. Another important need for 2018 is to vastly expand our solar power storage capacity which is closely tied to our need to improve security at the TCC. In the not-too-distant future we will build dormitory space for senior staff and visiting scientists and guests, a permanent kitchen/cooking area, and secu- rity stations for our guards. ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES HAVING AN IMPACT The brave work of our Enforcement Officer Sylvain Mahazotahy is beginning to be felt throughout the southern region. A film crew led by Chris Scarffe was trying to capture evidence of tortoise poaching on camera recently and found that this had become increasingly difficult to do. In towns such as Beloha, where just a few years ago signs of poaching, selling, and eating tortoises were blatant, these activities had been pushed underground or shifted to other areas. People interviewed were jumpy and reported that it had gotten too dangerous and too many people had been jailed. Mahazotahy reported that in 2016, within the Beloha district, 2,770 tortoises were confis- cated with 14 poachers arrested and eleven of them imprisoned, whereas in 2017, only 211 tortoises were confiscated with eleven poachers being arrested and jailed. He believes the decline in tortoise trafficking is due the fact that many poachers are already in jail. Our challenge is to keep the pressure The new tortoise clinic at the TCC was funded largely with support from the British Chelonia Group and provides spaces for diagnostics, treatment, and quarantine. PHOTO CREDIT: RICK HUDSON A PUBLICATION OF THE TURTLE SURVIVAL ALLIANCE TURTLESURVIVAL.ORG 19 up on poachers by expanding our network of informants while providing them with greater incentive. We now know that many tortoises leave the south via taxi-brousse headed north for Mahajunga where they then leave the island by boat. As a result of increased confiscations at the Ivato airport, trade routes are also shifting north in response. Mahazotahy needs new staff with motorbikes based in poaching hotspots, as well as funds to insert members of our Tortoise Patrol on key taxi-brousse routes. This program is working, but with the end of a major foundation grant in 2017, our challenge is to find resources to not only continue our anti-poaching efforts but ramp them up. It is also our responsibility to improve security for Mahazotahy and his family while he undertakes this increasingly dangerous mission. In addition to Mahazotahy's personal efforts, Malagasy law enforcement must continue to be proactive, for which UHZ recently donated a motorbike to the mayor of Lavanono to enable his team to more effectively patrol for poaching activity. Lavanono is located nearby to one of the most notorious poaching villages in the south, a settlement uncom- fortably close to Cap Sainte Marie Special Reserve (CSM), arguably the most important tortoise population in Madagascar. Improved patrolling in this area is essential. ENGAGING COMMUNITIES IS CRITICAL TO LONG-TERM SUCCESS There can be no mistake that the struggle to preserve viable wild populations of Radi- ated Tortoises will depend on the willing- ness of local communities to protect them. Some communities need little incentive to protect tortoise populations on their land and keep poachers out, while others require some carrots. Our challenge going forward is to identify healthy tortoise populations and to learn from the nearby villages why they protect them, or, if they are not pro- tecting them, what can be done to improve their willingness to do so. This is closely tied to our reintroduction strategy which involves finding populations of tortoises that have been depleted by poaching that can be restored by releases, a tactic that can only succeed if the local community is a willing participant. Determining this is the responsibility of our community outreach team who conducts surveys to identify sites in need of protec- tion or that are suitable for a reintroduction. Currently we engage the following commu- nities: Antsakoamasy, strategically located near CSM, where we built a school in 2012; Lavanono (see above); Ampotaka, the site of our soft-release research by Andrea Currylow; Tranovaho, the site of several large-scale poaching incidents; Antanimora, a potential future reintroduction site with good forests but depleted populations. Investigating these sites and associated communities is the responsibility of Riana Rakotondrainy, Syl- vain Mahazotahy, and Monja Rampanarivo who conduct both faunal and floral surveys and speak with community leaders to better understand their needs, concerns, and most importantly, feelings about having tortoises in their communities. REFINING OUR REINTRODUCTION STRATEGY: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Building on the lessons learned by Andrea Currylow's research at Ampotaka, where she tested the effects of penning for varying periods (soft release) to increase site fidelity following reintroduction, we plan to refine our strategy for this very important compo- nent before proceeding further. For reintro- ductions to be successful, there must be a careful interplay between good science and sound community engagement. Despite some challenges with collection of radio-tracking and GPS data following our soft releases at Ampotaka, our findings in Madagascar coupled with information gained from the Burmese Star Tortoise recovery program have provided a basis for moving forward with reintroductions. What is missing is a coherent strategy whereby we systematically identify potential sites, based largely on intact habitat, and then evaluate them based on a set of objective criteria. Those criteria include the presence or ab- sence of tortoises, recent poaching activity, presence of feral dogs, attitudes of local communities toward tortoises, and commu- nity willingness to support and participate in tortoise reintroductions. Site identification and Adult Radiated Tortoises at the TCC congre
TSA Magazine Archives
Download back issues of Turtle Survival, the TSA's annual publication, below. Members receive the full-color magazine each year, as a benefit of their membership in the TSA. To purchase print copies of back issues, visit our STORE!
The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) was formed in 2001 as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) partnership for sustainable captive management of freshwater turtles and tortoises, and initially designated a Task Force of the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. The TSA arose in response to the rampant and unsustainable harvest of Asian turtle populations to supply Chinese markets, a situation known as the Asian Turtle Crisis.
Since forming, the TSA has become recognized as a global force for turtle conservation, capable of taking swift and decisive action on behalf of critically endangered turtles and tortoises. Although the TSA was organized in response to the Asian Turtle Crisis, the group has been expanded as our understanding of the scope of turtle and tortoise declines has become better understood. The TSA has been particularly involved in recovery efforts where a managed breeding component is part of an overall survival strategy. The TSA employs a comprehensive strategy for evaluating the most critically endangered chelonians that identifies whether a species is prioritized for a captive program or through range country efforts, or a combination of both.
In the past 13 years, TSA secured nonprofit 501(c)(3) status (2005) and has centralized its base operations in South Carolina by opening the Turtle Survival Center (2013). The Turtle Survival Center, which now has AZA certification (2018), is home to a collection of more than 700 turtles and tortoises, representing 30 of the world’s critically endangered species. The TSA has also grown internationally, with significant field projects or programs in Madagascar, Myanmar and India, and additional projects in Belize, Colombia, and throughout Asia.
Today, the TSA is an action-oriented global partnership, focusing on species that are at high risk of extinction, and working in turtle diversity hotspots around the world. Widely recognized as a global catalyst for turtle conservation based on its reputation for swift and decisive action, the TSA has made a bold commitment to zero turtle extinctions in the 21st Century. The TSA is a recognized force for turtle conservation globally. TSA’s conservation actions utilize a three-pronged approach:
1. Restoring populations in the wild where possible;
2. Securing species in captivity through assurance colonies; and
3. Building the capacity to restore, secure and conserve species within their range country.
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