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ATP WEEKLY TURTLE BULLETIN

No. 111, 20th December 2013



1. Myanmar: Wild animals rescued in Myanmar

SOURCE: annamiticus.com
DATE: 4th December, 2013

On the 24th of August, in Hopone Township of Shan State, Myanmar, Forest Department officials seized 105 Critically Endangered Arakan Forest Turtles (Heosemys depressa) and arrested a suspect who is being charged in accordance with section 36(a) of the Protection of Wildlife and Protected Areas Law (1994). The maximum punishment is up to five years in prison or a maximum fine of MMK 30,000 ($31) or both. The operation was carried out in collaboration with Myanmar Police Force. Sadly, five turtles died. The rest are being housed and cared for at the Turtle Rescue Center in Naung-Cho Township, Shan State. Two days earlier, 14 tortoises and three turtles (unknown species) were seized at Oattwin Township in Bago Region and one smuggler was arrested. The suspect is being charged in accordance with section 35 (a) of the Protection of Wildlife and Protected Areas Law (1994), which carries a maximum prison sentence of three years, or a fine of MMK 10,000 (US $10) or both.

Link to this web article online (English)



© ASEAN-WEN



2. Sanya, China: Superman releases turtle after plastic ingestion

SOURCE: earthtimes.org – DATE: 26th November, 2013

On the 24th of November 2013 an optimistic crowd of tourists in Hainan, China, cheered on a rehabilitated green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) aptly named Hope, as she swam into the Pacific. In dramatic contrast to previous sea turtle release events, Sea Turtles 911's Founding Director Frederick Yeh wore a Superman suit instead of the usual volunteer T-shirt, as he guided the turtle toward the ocean. Yeh explained, “In times of impending doom, Superman brings hope to the human species, and with the sea turtle species nearing the brink of extinction, saving turtles is looking more like a job for Superman."
Like many of the turtles that Sea Turtles 911 rehabilitates, Hope was found floating helplessly atop the ocean's surface after eating a plastic bag, mistaken for a jellyfish, a favourite food for sea turtles. The added buoyancy of the plastic she ingested not only caused her to drift along the Pacific ocean's currents to Hainan coastal waters, but also caused her digestive system to shut down. By the time Chinese Coast Guard police found her afloat and transported her to Sea Turtles 911, she was emaciated, and near death. Yeh and other volunteers spent seven months nursing Hope back to health, after which she made a full recovery. Hope's miraculous recovery in China brings hope that one day the sea turtles here will make a population recovery and return to the beaches.

Link to this web article online (English)








© seaturtles911



3. China: 40 tons of diseased tortoise bones used in traditional Chinese medicine

SOURCE: cri.cn – DATE: 17th December, 2013

Recently, police in Haining and Pinghu in Zhejiang province busted a group that illegally purchased and resold tortoise bones. A total of 16 suspects were caught and 8 tons of bones from tortoises that died of diseases were detained by police. Tortoise bones are used for medicinal purposes in China. However, the smuggled tortoise bones were unusable according to Chinese pharmacopoeia standards, as they contained disease-causing bacteria. The results of an inspection showed that the bones detained by police contain salmonella, proteus and other disease-causing bacteria. Most of the bones in the investigation came directly from the tortoise farmers, some of whom had placed the dead tortoises in septic tanks or pigsties to accelerate the decay process and get the bones more quickly. The price of the diseased bones is lower than that of non-diseased bones and they are more widely available in the market. Therefore, although many medicine companies know the source of the bones, they still use them in their medicines. A number of regulatory authorities which address the tortoise trade at various levels from acquisition to sale and across a range of industries, currently exists in China. However, many regulators have said they do not have an efficient solution for prohibiting the practice. In response, some experts have suggested that a supervision mechanism for the collection, transportation and disposal of the bones should be implemented to better address the issue.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)


Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

 


4. Qinzhou, China: Turtle power propels Qinzhou

SOURCE: ecns.cn
DATE: 27th November, 2013

ATP NOTE: The article below relates to farming of Cuora trifasciata, with large sums of money paid for the species farms have continued to place pressure on wild populations to source additional founders. The challenges in regulating and monitoring such farms means they continue to pose significant threats to wild populations of turtles in Asia. With dreams of rapidly becoming wealthy numerous wildlife farms were registered in Vietnam in 2013.

Chen Xingqian, 56, saw a small poster with the tagline "Raising turtles can make you a fortune" in Nanning railway station in 1981. He paid 360 yuan ($60), nearly eight months of his salary, for a one-day training session on breeding turtles and received six small water turtles as the "starting capital" of his business. A year later, however, a relative from Hong Kong visited him, bringing encouraging news - the six turtles he raised were worth more than HK$10,000 ($1,290) in the Hong Kong market, because local people believed eating turtle soup was good for their health. Chen became more steadfast about his choice and caring for his six turtles became a priority after work each day. The six turtles started laying eggs four years later and this allowed him to make some serious money when he sold the offspring in Hong Kong with the help of his relatives. In 1986, he quit his job and committed all of his money and time to breeding and raising turtles. By the early 1990s, he was one of the millionaires most famous for breeding turtles in Qinzhou. The original six turtles are still alive today and live among the 100,000 edible turtles in his five turtle farms in Qinzhou. In 2004, with the help of the Qinzhou city government, Chen established the Qinzhou Turtle Association, as a volunteer platform to train people how to breed and raise turtles. Chen has mature marketing channels and business models. In addition to his own farms, he gives young turtles to the trainees, teaches them how to take care of the reptiles and buys back the grown turtles several years later. As of 2013, more than 6,000 families in Qinzhou have benefited from Chen's program. More than 10,000 Qinzhou families raise 1.25 million turtles in their homes at present. The annual production value of these families reached more than 500 million yuan (~$82,376,394) in 2012. The average annual net income per family is about 20,000 yuan (~$3,295). The city sells about 1,500 tons of turtles each year.

ATP NOTE: On the illustrated picture, Chen holds a Cuora trifasciata.  

Link to this web article online (English)



 


5. Sambor district, Cambodia: Monks and Cash Rewards Save Softshell Turtles

SOURCE: cambodiadaily.com
DATE: 14th December, 2013

The Cantor's giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) was thought to be extinct in the Mekong River until 2007, when Conservation International (CI) staff found a specimen in a fisherman's net in Kratie province. The discovery received international attention, and their apparent abundance in Kratie was labeled as the last viable population, vital to saving the species from complete extinction. Protecting the species is not easy, said Phuong Chantha, a monk who works at the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre (MTCC), which opened in 2011 on the grounds of the historic 100-pillar pagoda in Sambor district. Due to its popularity in Chinese medicine and as a delicacy, CI realized that simply telling locals to stop hunting the turtles wasn't going to work so they enlisted the monks in the pagoda “because Cambodian people believe in Buddhism, and when we coordinate with the pagoda and cooperate with the monks, people will obey what the monks say,” according to Yoeun Sun, a technical supervisor at the turtle conservation centre. Hunting turtles, Phuong Chantha said, was good business in Kratie. A local resident said: “Last year I sold 300 turtles. Usually, I sell them from here to Vietnam, and I get $10 for one kilo, but for softshell, I get twice as much.” Relying solely on people's respect for monks wouldn't stop hunters unless there was a financial incentive. A hatchling delivered to the centre will earn a reward of $8, a figure that has turned some turtle hunters, such as Tea Sok Nay, into turtle protectors.

Link to this web article online (English)



© Huo Yan - China Daily


© cambodiadaily.com


6. Population genomics of the endangered giant Galapagos tortoise

SOURCE: genomebiology.com – DATE: 16th December, 2013

The giant Galapagos tortoise, Chelonoidis nigra, is a large-sized terrestrial chelonian of high patrimonial interest. The species recently colonized a small continental archipelago, the Galapagos islands, where it has been facing novel environmental conditions and limited resource availability. To explore the genomic consequences of this ecological shift, the transcriptomic variability of five individuals of C.nigra was analysed and compared to similar data obtained from several continental species of turtles. The timing of divergence in the Chelonoidis genus has been clarified; it is found out that in C.nigra , a very low level of genetic polymorphism, signatures of a weakened efficacy of purifying selection, and an elevated mutation load in coding and regulatory sequences were recorded. These results are consistent with the hypothesis of an extremely low long-term effective population size in this insular species. Functional evolutionary analyses reveal a reduced diversity of immunity genes in C.nigra, in line with the hypothesis of attenuated pathogen diversity in islands, and an increased selective pressure on genes involved in response to stress, potentially related to the climatic instability of its environment and its elongated lifespan. In addition, no population structure or homozygosity excess in the five-individual sample was detected. These results enlighten the molecular evolution of an endangered taxon in a stressful environment and point to island endemic species as a promising model for the study of the deleterious effects on genome evolution of a reduced long-term population size.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)


Link 2 to this web article online (English)




7. Bangkok, Thailand: Rare Malagasy tortoises turn up in luggage seized in Bangkok

SOURCE: traffic.org
DATE: 10th December, 2013

On the 10th of December, Royal Thai Customs seized a bag containing 62 highly threatened Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) and arrested a Malagasy national at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The bag was not picked up from the luggage carousel raising the suspicion of Customs officials who then scanned the bag to check its contents. The tortoises were discovered hidden in the foam-lined suitcase. Officials managed to locate the suspect, a Malagasy national, who had flown from Antananarivo to Bangkok. He is under arrest and is being investigated under several sections of Thailand's Wild Animals Preservation and Protection Act 1992, Customs Act and the Animal Epidemics Act. The seized tortoises are now in the care of Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. The seizure was based on the ongoing co-operation between TRAFFIC and the Royal Thai Customs, to identify and watch known wildlife smuggling routes.

Link to this web article online (English)


 


8.  Quang Ninh province, Vietnam: Seizure of illegal transport of animals

SOURCE: giadinh.net
DATE: 19th December, 2013

In the early morning of the 19th of December, 2013, Police of Hai Ha district stopped a car en route from Mong Cai to Ha Long and discovered 200 boxes of animals, weighing 4 tons. The illegal shipment included snakeheads, grass carps, catfish, frogs and softshell turtles. The police of Hai Ha district in cooperation with local authorities confiscated and destroyed the contraband.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)



© TRAFFIC


© Anh Hong


9. Singapore: World's rarest tortoise loses face value

SOURCE: traffic.org – DATE: 16th December, 2013

Conservation organizations fighting to save one of the world's most threatened tortoises from poachers have resorted to a drastic measure—engraving identification codes onto the animals' shells to reduce their black market value. Four organizations – Wildlife Reserves Singapore, TRAFFIC, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Turtle Conservancy – joined forces to hold a “Tattoo the Tortoise” event on the 16th of December at Singapore Zoo to raise awareness of the plight of the Ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) and to build support to fight trafficking in the species. The event included presentations by experts working on the conservation of these tortoises and an exhibition open to the public. These activities provide an opportunity for the public, governments and other relevant bodies to learn about the dire situation these animals face, and what they can do to save the Ploughshare Tortoises. Although fully protected, Ploughshare Tortoises are prized for their beautiful high domed shells, but are being pushed closer to the brink of extinction due to high demand as unique and exotic pets. Engraving a tortoise's shell makes it less desirable to traffickers and easier for enforcement agencies to trace.

Link to this web article online (English)

 


10. U.S.: Five endangered Chinese turtles born in US zoo

SOURCE: reuters.com
DATE: 17th December, 2013

The birth of five Chinese big-headed turtles (Platysternon megacephalum) in a New York City zoo marks the first time the endangered creatures have been born in the United States. The two-inch-long hatchlings emerged in November at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn. "With so many of the world's freshwater turtles and tortoises facing extinction, these hatchlings represent significant progress for the conservation of the species," Denise McClean, Director of the Prospect Park Zoo. The Brooklyn five are part of a global Wildlife Conservation Society Program aimed at saving them. With a total of 15 Chinese big-headed turtles, New York City is now home to the largest collection in any zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Link to this web article online (English)



© TRAFFIC


© Reuters/Julie Larsen Maher of the WCS

 
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