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No. 145, 22th August 2014

1. The threat of traditional medicine: China's boom may mean doom for turtles

SOURCE: – DATE: 8 th August 2014

Despite a lack of scientific evidence demonstrating a causative link between turtle consumption and medicinal benefits, many people in China believe they provide benefits such as maintaining youthful beauty in women and improving sexual function in men. Because of these beliefs and their symbolic importance, turtles have been highly sought after for more than 3,000 years. However, in recent years, China's economy has changed in a way that has become increasingly threatening to the country's wild turtle populations.
The most common species used are the yellow pond turtle (Mauremys mutic), the Chinese three-striped box turtle (Cuora trifasciata), the yellow-margined box turtle (Cuora flavomarginata), the Chinese big-headed turtle (Platysternon megacephalum), Reeves' turtle (Mauremys reevesii), the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and Chinese soft-shell turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis). Many of these species -- including the Chinese three-striped and yellow margined box turtle and the Chinese big-headed turtle -- are either extinct or are dangerously close to it in the wild. ATP NOTE: These species are not extinct but are highly threatened by continued collection pressure to meet the demands of the trade.

Link to this web article online (English)

© T. Blanck

2. Brazil: Scientists study 'talking' turtles in Brazilian Amazon

SOURCE: – DATE: 14 th August 2014

Turtles are well known for their longevity and protective shells, but it turns out these reptiles use sound to stick together and care for young, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society and other organisations.

Scientists working in the Brazilian Amazon have found that Giant South American river turtles (Podocnemis expansa) actually use several different kinds of vocal communication to coordinate their social behaviours, including one used by female turtles to call to their newly hatched offspring in what is the first instance of recorded parental care in turtles.

Research on the Giant South American river turtles is part of a new long-term WCS conservation program called Amazon Waters, an initiative focusing on the conservation of aquatic ecosystems and species.

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© Flickr-Pacific

3. The USA: Endangered Desert Tortoises Getting Sterilised Due to Unlikely Threat

SOURCE: – DATE: 18 th August 2014

In a sort of paradoxical situation, wildlife officials are taking the unusual step of sterilising endangered desert tortoises, a species that they are in fact trying to protect.

US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials say the action is necessary to save this species from captive backyard tortoises, which are diverting resources from efforts to preserve the species in the wild, The Associated Press  (AP) reports. Tortoises in captivity threaten native populations because they can carry diseases with them when they escape or are released illegally in the desert.

Mike Senn, assistant field supervisor for the FWS in Nevada, said it can be "a really difficult issue" to explain to people, he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal , but the bottom line is that simply breeding more of the species won't save it in the long run. Techniques such as sterilisation must be applied to improve and protect natural habitat and address threats in the wild.

The agency is inviting veterinarians from Nevada, Arizona, California and Utah to attend a first-ever desert tortoise sterilisation clinic, a two-day event to teach new techniques that could help slow backyard breeding of the reptile.More than 50 tortoises will be sterilised during the event.

Link to this web article online (English)

4. Florida man arrested for poaching 299 sea turtle eggs

SOURCE: – DATE: 19 th August 2014

About 300 sea turtle eggs were returned to the beach and reburied Friday after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission caught a man poaching them from a beach in St. Lucie County. James Odel McGriff, 55, of Riviera Beach, was arrested and booked into the St. Lucie County Jail.

A concerned citizen on Friday called the FWC after she saw what looked like a man stealing sea turtle eggs at the Diamond Sands beach, located along A1A. FWC officers and investigators responded and talked with McGriff. After using a K-9 to track where McGriff had been, investigators located a disturbed sea turtle nest and a backpack full of sea turtle eggs.

This wasn't the first time McGriff had been caught poaching turtle eggs, officials said. In 2002, he was arrested after he sold 12 eggs to an undercover officer and also had about 324 pre-bagged eggs for sale. The FWC is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the case, and federal charges are pending, officials said.

The Marine Turtle Protection Act stipulates that it is illegal to injure, harm, harass, capture or attempt to capture any marine turtles, eggs or nests.

Link to this web article online (English)

© Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

© D. Ranetunge

5. Pangolin, Star tortoise face extinction threat from Indian poachers

SOURCE: – DATE: 19 th August 2014

Indian Star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) and Pangolins face extinction from native poachers in southeastern Asia.

Indian poachers are starting to target lesser-known species, as regulations protecting better-know animals such as rhinos and tigers are being enforced more effectively. Demand for products derived from exotic animals may have already driven dozens of species to extinction. While some creatures are kept as house pets, others are slaughtered for food, medicine or aphrodisiacs of uncertain effectiveness.

The star tortoise is harvested from wild areas, in order to supply a growing pet trade in the exotic animals. Indian Star tortoise seizures by airport and port customs officials have increased dramatically, from an average of less than 800 per year from 1990 to 1999 to more than 3,000 per year from 2002 to 2013, according to the protection society.

While, Pangolin hunting was once nearly unheard of, with an average of just three animals a year reported killed in India each year between 1990 and 2008. During the years between 2009 and 2013, that number soared to over 320 animals every twelve months. This tally represents just the animals discovered by authorities, and the actual number of animals poached could be up to 10 times higher. ATP NOTE: it is also worth considering that detection and enforcement of smuggling case involving star tortoises maybe increasing in recent years.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

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6. The Philippines: Death of stranded turtle prompts DENR probe order

SOURCE: – DATE: 24 th July 2014

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas has ordered an investigation of the death of a female Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), locally known as pawikan, an endangered species, in Toledo City. The turtle was found on the shore of Barangay (village) Bato in Toledo with a head wound on the 19 th of July, 2014. Officials said the endangered animal was at least 30 years old and weighed around 30 kg. Isabelo Montejo, DENR regional director, said he has ordered an investigation “so that persons responsible for this brazen act will be dealt with accordingly.” Montejo said hunting, killing, harming, trading or even possessing endangered animals are punishable under the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 (Republic Act No. 9147). Hawksbill turtles are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Link1 to this web article online (English)

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© Courtsesy of the Public Security Ministry

7. El Niño: Kiss of death for Costa Rica's sea turtle eggs?

SOURCE: – DATE: 21 st August 2014

Annual rainfall has decreased by 52 per cent this year in the Guanacaste region, according to the National Meteorological Institute, affecting the hatching rates of turtles in Ostional, a mass nesting site on Costa Rica's Pacific coast for the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea).

Approximately 70 kilometres from Nicoya, Ostional shore temperatures have been increasing and causing problems for the hatching rate of the Olive Ridley sea turtle. This year has been the most severe El Niño drought recorded since 1986, with sand temperatures rising to over 35 degrees Celsius, causing major problems for the eggs. The eggs rarely survive when the temperature approaches 35 C, Chávez said. “Over 35 degrees Celsius, they will all die.” In the middle of July, Chávez conducted a developmental assessment of the eggs on Playa Ostional and found that a significant number from June's arribada, or mass nesting, were still buried in their nest in the sand and were already dead.

Link to this web article online (English)


8. The IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group commends China and Pakistan on successful repatriation of 204 confiscated Black Pond Turtles

SOURCE: – DATE: 21 st August 2014

SOURCE: On Monday, the 8 th of August 2014, authorities of the People's Republic of China handed over 204 Black Pond Turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) to the authorities of Pakistan. The animals, mostly adults, had been confiscated on the 15 th of June 2014 in the Tajik Autonomous County of Taxkorgan, in northwest China's Xinjian Uygur Autonomous Region, which borders Pakistan. Police apprehended the person who smuggled the animals from Pakistan into China, and five prospective buyers.

The IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group commends China and Pakistan for this exemplary action to act against illegal turtle trade and repatriate the animals to their country of origin .

The Black Pond Turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) is native to Pakistan, as well as India and Nepal. It is listed in Appendix I of CITES, prohibiting all commercial international trade , and is protected under domestic wildlife legislation. Nevertheless, its illegal trade has increased greatly in recent years.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

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© L. Fendt




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