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ATP WEEKLY TURTLE BULLETIN

No. 188, 26th June 2015

1. The Philippines: Thousands of critically endangered Palawan Forest Turtles seized
SOURCE: traffic.org – DATE: 24th June 2015

Over 4,400 freshwater turtles, the majority of them Critically Endangered Palawan Forest Turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis), were seized last week in southern Palawan, Philippines.

The animals were subsequently transported to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development in Puerto Princesa City, where they were handed over to wildlife group Katala Foundation Inc. (KFI) for safekeeping.

The massive haul included 3,907 Palawan Forest Turtles, including 159 dead, as well as 168 Asian Leaf Turtles (Cyclemys dentata) and 25 Southeast Asian Box Turtles (Cuora amboinensis). The animals were in poor condition, showing signs of having been neglected in captivity over a long period.

According to the newsletter of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) about 2,200 Palawan Forest Turtles were judged suitable to be released - encouraging news as it would give these turtles a better chance for survival and greatly reduce crowding at the rescue centre for this species, which stresses easily when maintained in groups. Remaining are approximately 1,000 live turtles that are in poor to fair condition, though there are fewer deaths than in previous days.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

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Palawan Forest Turtle
© Katala Foundation Inc

Old stinky Sternotherus palaeodorus
© Heralcourier.com

2. The USA: New species of turtle nicknamed ‘Old Stinky’ found at Gray Fossil Site
SOURCE: heraldcourier.com – DATE: 18th June 2015

The Gray Fossil Site (Gray, Tennessee, Washington County, Tennessee, the USA) has produced another animal that is completely new to science. This time, it is an ancient type of small pond turtle.

Dr. Blaine Schubert, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at East Tennessee State University and director of the ETSU and General Shale Natural History Museum, recently completed a paper about two new species of the oldest fossil musk turtles known, one of which was discovered at the Gray Fossil Site and named Sternotherus palaeodorus, thus having thenickname of “Old Stinky”. The paper was completed with Jason Bourque, a palaeontologist and preparator at the Florida Museum of Natural History who is particularly well-known for his research on turtles.

The paper was published earlier this year in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology and describes two new species of musk turtles, one from Gray and the other from Florida.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

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3. The UK: Rare lizards, sea horses, snakes and tortoises seized by police in record-breaking crackdown on wildlife smuggling 
SOURCE: dailymail.co.uk – DATE: 19th June 2015

In a clampdown on the trade, the UK authorities teamed up with their international counterparts to launch Operation Cobra 3. A staggering 300 seizures were made during a six-week operation by Border Force and UK police - more than the previous highest number of shipments intercepted which was 239 over a three-month period.

In the record-breaking crackdown on wildlife smuggling, endangered species such as rare lizards, sea horses, snakes and tortoises were seized. Items found also included ivory ornaments, claws from black bears, threatened orchids and cacti, stuffed crocodiles and medicines made from protected animals and plants.

ATP NOTE: Three of six Spur-thighed Tortoises (Testudo graeca) smuggled from Algeria are shown in the picture.

Link to this web article online (English)

UK crackdown on wildlife smuggling

© PA

UK crackdown on wildlife smuggling

© PA

4. India: Police busted gang of turtle smugglers in Kanpur
SOURCE: timesofindia.indiatimes.com – DATE: 20th June 2015

A gang of turtle smugglers was busted by Kalyanpur police (Uttar Pradesh, India) with the arrest of four smugglers from whom 70 turtles were recovered on Saturday. The breakthrough came when police acting on a tip off laid a trap and arrested four smugglers from Bithoor trisection at GT road. The arrested smugglers have been booked under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and sent to jail. The police have handed over the turtles to the forest department.

Link to this web article online (English)

Blanding's tortoise

© K. Bekker

5. The USA: He made his way slowly, but he travelled 17 miles               
Reptile micro-chipped in 2007 crawled to Maumee State Forest 2 zip codes away
SOURCE: toledeoblade.com - DATE: 21st June 2015

Was it adventure, the search for a housing upgrade, or just love?

Something inspired a lone male Blanding’s turtle (Emys blandingii or Emydoidea blandingii) to venture at least 17 miles (27.36km) across a staircase network of northwest Ohio waterways on a journey that has left biologists at the Toledo Zoo (Ohio, the USA) baffled and celebratory.

First captured and micro-chipped in 2007 at Bumpus Pond off North Eber Road in an area now known as Wiregrass Lake Metropark (Ohio, the USA), this rare turtle showed up late last year a couple of zip codes away, in the Maumee State Forest (Ohio, the USA). With his extensive travelogue, this 60-year-old turtle has unwittingly solidified the viewpoint that habitat corridors are invaluable to our wildlife.

Link to this web article online (English)

6. Malaysia: 2,100 turtle eggs, RM28,548 cigarettes seized
SOURCE: theborneopost.com – DATE: 24th June 2015

The Marine Operations Force (MOF) confiscated 243 packets of contraband cigarettes worth RM28,548 ($7,627) at the river area of Mile 3, Kampung Mangkalinau (Malaysia), yesterday.

On the same day, the MOF confiscated 2,100 turtle eggs at the waters of Kampung Forest. The MOF patrol team came across a speedboat and saw the skipper jump into the sea. All the confiscated turtle eggs, including the speedboat and its engine, were worth around RM13,000 ($3,473). The turtle eggs will be referred to the Wildlife Department for further investigation.

Link to this web article online (English)

2100 turtle eggs confiscated

© theborneopost.com

Ploughshare tortoise

© BBC

7.  Madagascar: Drastic action to save endangered tortoise
SOURCE: bbc.com – DATE: 24th June 2015

In a desperate bid to save one of the world's most endangered animals, conservationists are taking the controversial step of defacing the last survivors.

Ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) are highly prized for their distinctive gold and black shells and fetch exceptionally high prices on the international black market, at present less than 500 are thought to be left in the wild. Both wild animals and animals maintained in a captive breeding programme at a Madagascan facility are now having their shells permanently engraved with a large serial number together with the initials "MG" for Madagascar as part of a project led by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The hope is that deliberately making the animals less attractive will reduce or even eliminate demand for them.

Link to this web article online (English)

8. How the turtle got its shell
SOURCE: npr.org – DATE: 24th June 2015

The fossilized remains of a bizarre-looking reptile are giving scientists new insights into how turtles got their distinctive shells. The new fossil, described Wednesday by Sues and his colleague Rainer Schoch in the journal Nature, was uncovered in a limestone quarry near Stuttgart, Germany. Hans-Dieter Sues, a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., says when he saw the strange-looking ribs, he knew immediately that it must be an early turtle.

Some 240 million years ago, this early turtle-like creature lived in a large lake, in a fairly warm, subtropical climate. But it didn't have the kind of shell modern turtles have. Sues describes this primitive turtle, which the scientists named Pappochelys, as being about 8 inches long (20 cm), with slender legs, a long tail and neck, and then "a strange, boxy trunk region."

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

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Pappochelys

© R. Schasch

 
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