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No. 215, 1st January 2016

1. Thailand: How a Facebook Post Led to the Arrests of Endangered Turtle Thieves in Thailand
SOURCE: – DATE: 29th December 2015

Two people were arrested in Thailand in connection with a group of stolen Burmese Star Tortoises (Geochelone platynota), a critically endangered species, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced on the 29th of December 2015.

The investigation began in October when a tipster sent the Department of National Parks in Thailand a Facebook post showing tortoises for sale. Authorities monitored the Facebook profile associated with the post, and found other similar offers to sell tortoises. On the 22nd of December 2015, the authorities raided the northeast Thailand home of the Facebook poster, who was not identified, and arrested him. In the process, seven tortoises were confiscated. A second suspect, who was also not identified, was arrested after the first perpetrator said he purchased the animals from him.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)

Star Tortoise

© WCS Thailand

turtle fossil

© D. Croft

2. Bolivia: Reptile fossils offer clues about elevation history of Andes Mountains
SOURCE: - DATE: 29th December 2015

On an arid plateau in the Andes Mountains of southern Bolivia, a Case Western Reserve University researcher flagged what turned out to be the fossil remains of a tortoise nearly five feet long - a find indicating this highland was likely less than a kilometre above sea level 13 million years ago.

Fossilized shell pieces of a much smaller, aquatic turtle found nearby support the altitude estimate and also indicate the climate was much wetter than today.

The remains are the first records of fossil turtles from the Miocene epoch in Bolivia, and their presence challenges a recent isotope-based study that estimated the massive plateau, called the Altiplano, near what is now the town of Quebrada Honda, was 2 to 3.2 kilometres high at that time. In addition, the fossils provide a glimpse into climate change caused by rising mountains, which may help scientists understand climate change underway now.

The research is published in the Journal of South American Earth Sciences.

Link to this web article online (English)

3. The USA: Eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise get new protected habitat in Georgia
SOURCE: – DATE: 30th December 2015

3,986 acres of biologically diverse habitat along Georgia's Altamaha River are now a safe haven for some of the state's most notable and imperilled species: including the harmless (and Federally endangered) Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi) and Georgia's official state reptile, the Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus).

The project, along I-95 in Glynn County was put together by The Nature Conservancy. According to today's press release from Melissa Cummings of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, this venture has been made possible through cooperation between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Marine Corps, Georgia DNR, The Nature Conservancy and a host of private foundations and supporters, to help increase recreational opportunities for anglers and hunters, as well as protecting crucial Georgia fisheries and watersheds through a healthy stream system, estuaries and other sensitive critical habitats and naturally cleansing bio systems.

Link to this web article online (English)

Easten Indigo Snake

© D. Couperi

4. Fiji: Concern over illegal killing of turtles
SOURCE: – DATE: 30th December 2015

The vast difference in penalties between the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and local legislations may pose difficulties in efforts to deter people from killing turtles illegally.

Marine species projects co-ordinator for the World Wide Fund Pacific, Laitia Tamata, said under the Fisheries Act offenders were either imprisoned for three months or paid a fine of $500 while the convention charged offenders with an amount of $20,000 and a maximum imprisonment period of about five months. Mr Tamata said this might be one of the reasons people did not take turtle conservation efforts seriously.

ATP NOTE: CITES is not a legal agency and is not able to impose fines itself, however many countries have signed in support of CITES and in doing so have created their own national laws which impose fines related to CITES listed species.

Link to this web article online (English)

5. India: 400 dead turtles washed ashore in Gahirmatha
SOURCE: – DATE: 30th December 2015

Around 400 carcasses of Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) were recently washed ashore between Sialia and Eakakula beaches of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary in Kendrapada district, Odisha, India. "The carcasses were scattered over 40 km of the sanctuary area. The turtles might have died after getting trapped in a trawl or gill net. Many of them bore injury marks," said forest range officer of the marine sanctuary Subrat Kumar Patra.

The state government has imposed a seven-month ban on fishing activities inside the sanctuary area and 20 km off the shore till the 31st of May to protect the turtles. Forest officials have so far seized 25 fishing vessels and arrested 135 fishermen for unlawful fishing activity.

Link to this web article online (English)


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