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No. 118, 14th February 2014

1. Phu Yen province, Vietnam: Creating favourable conditions to protect rare Vietnamese pond turtles

SOURCE: – DATE: 14th February 2014

Mr. Phạm Ngọc Hoàng a farm owner in Hai Riêng town, Sông Hinh District, Phú Yên province) claims to be raising Vietnamese pond turtles ( Mauremys annamensis) – a rare and endangered species endemic to Vietnam. He said that his farm now holds approximately 190 turtles of all age classes. A lot of people coming to the farm are interested in buying some animals but due to the lack of relevant documents, many of them changed their mind. Mr. Hoàng claims that even 10-day old hatchlings are worth more than 20 million Vietnamese dong  (~$950). Although fully protected under Vietnam's principal wildlife protection law, Decree 32, in 2006 and being listed in Vietnam's Red Book the species is still heavily hunted for sale into the wildlife trade.

ATP NOTE: It is likely that if this farm is selling the species the required documentation to trade Decree 32 protected species are not being obtained, in which case Mr Pham would be in breach of national laws in Vietnam, this case should be investigated by the relevant authorities and the ATP will be following up. It should also be noted that the article does not give any suggestion of how farming and trading for financial gain will help protected the species.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)

2. Thanh Hoa, Vietnam: Half a billion Vietnamese dong for a tortoise with one missing leg in sacred fish stream

SOURCE: – DATE: 12th February 2014.

On the 2nd of December 2013, a turtle with one missing leg was found in the sacred fish stream, near a busy pagoda, in Cam Luong Commune, Cam Thuy District, Thanh Hoa province. From the photos in the article the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) identified the animal as a male Keeled box turtle (Cuora mouhotii mouhotii). The 680g turtle obviously had its leg amputated and people immediately started calling it “golden turtle” because of the colour of its carapace. The tourism management board of Cam Thuy District said that they knew this species is listed in Vietnam's Redbook, however they wanted to show the animal to tourists during the day and thought to keep it safe inside the pagoda during the night. Since the turtle was found in the stream, the number of visitors to the pagoda has increased and some were even interested in buying it for a price as high as 300 million VND (approximately $15,000), and even half a billion VND was apparently offered but the members of the Management Board were scared and did not sell the turtle.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)


3. Brazil: Giant Swarm of Turtles Hatch in Brazil

SOURCE: – DATE: 11th February, 2014

An estimated 210,000 Giant South American river turtle (Podocnemis expansa) hatchlings recently entered the world during a mass hatching event at Brazil's Abufari Biological Reserve, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation.
Impressive as the baby turtle brigade was, the species is still threatened and endangered. The Giant South American river turtle is the largest of the side-necked turtle family and grows up to 80 centimetres (nearly three feet) in length. The hatching event happens every year during the dry season in Brazil — so conservationists planned in advance. They managed to mark and release approximately 15,000 of the baby turtles. "The marked turtles will hopefully provide important data that will help inform conservation plans to safeguard this species from exploitation," Camila Ferrara, Aquatic Turtle Specialist for the WCS Brazil Program, said in a press release. Unfortunately, only a small number of the turtles reach adulthood. Baby turtles turn out to be tasty and easy snacks for many predators. In fact, the evolutionary reason for the mass hatching is to overwhelm these natural predators with sheer volume. Some baby turtles are invariably snatched and eaten, but while that's happening, siblings of the victims can continue to make their way down to the river.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)

© C. Ferrara - Wildlife Conservation Society

4. London, England: Celebrity pet: the rediscovery of Charles Darwin's long-lost Galapagos tortoise

SOURCE: – DATE: 12th February 2014

In his Narrative of Charles Darwin's voyage, captain Robert FitzRoy of the ship ‘Beagle' made it clear that they had some live Galapagos giant tortoises on board at the time. “Several were brought alive to England,” he wrote. FitzRoy had scooped up two tiny tortoises from Espanola (an island in the south of the archipelago) and took enough interest in them to monitor their growth during the home stretch of the voyage. There were at least two other small Galapagos tortoises on board, as noted by Darwin himself. But where did Darwin's pet tortoise end up? It's a fabulous question that has given rise to a fabulous myth. Darwin's tortoise is supposed to have become Harriet, a giant tortoise that lived at the Australia Zoo in Queensland until her death in 2006 (allegedly transported down under by John Clements Wickham, the Beagle's first lieutenant under FitzRoy). However, author Paul Chambers clearly demonstrated in his book and in a follow-up feature in New Scientist, this is simply wishful thinking. Unfortunately though, Chambers was not able to track down Darwin's tortoise to another location, which would have definitively debunked the Harriet fable. A few years after Chambers' investigation, however, Darwin's tortoise – missing for over 170 years – finally turned up at the Natural History Museum in London.

Link to this web article online (English)

© Charles Darwin- His Life and Work (1891)

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum - London

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