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No. 216, 8th January 2016

1. Vietnam: Large soft-shell turtle photographed by local tourist
SOURCE: – DATE: 5th January 2016

On the 5th of January 2016, Nguyen Thanh Nam (resides at Tam Dai Commune, Phu Ninh District, Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam) said that while hiking in the national scenic area, Phu Ninh Lake (Tam Dai Commune), he saw an approx. 50kg large soft-shell turtle emerged near the edge of the lake which he was able to photograph.

ATP NOTE: the turtle is possibly a Asiatic Softshell Turtle (Amyda cartilaginea), confiscated animals are often released by the Forest Protection Department (FPD) into the lake and this animal could have been released.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)

50 kg softshell turtle

© Nguyen Thanh Nam



2. Electroejaculation Is an Undignified but Efficient Way to Save Endangered Species
SOURCE: - DATE: 23rd December 2015

There may be no species closer to the black brink of extinction than the largest freshwater turtle on Earth, the Yangtze giant softshell (Rafetus swinhoei). Only four of these critically endangered reptiles are left in existence, due to habitat loss, pollution, and hunting.

Just one of the remaining animals is female. Scientists have access to only one male softshell turtle. (The other two males are in Vietnam and unavailable for complex political reasons.) That male suffered a horrific battle wound in his youth, leaving the highly specialized tip of his penis mangled to the point of near uselessness.

Given these circumstances, the scientists have resorted to a method called electroejaculation. Put simply, electroejaculation is the name for when you insert a probe into an animal’s rectum and deliver electrical pulses to the nerves responsible for erection and ejaculation, causing the male to ejaculate semen. Conservationists and zookeepers use electroejaculation to assist in selective breeding and artificial insemination.

ATP NOTE: there is still some discussion about the sex of the animals in Vietnam. While the large animal in Hoan Kiem lake was reported by the authorities as a female animal many experts believe that due tot the size and based on available photographs of the tail it is in fact a male. While the Dong Mo Lake animal in Vietnam is currently the point of some discussion with a number of experts unable to confirm sex based on available photographs.

Link to this web article online (English)

3. Poachers using science papers to target newly discovered species
SOURCE: – DATE: 1st January 2015

Journals begin withholding locations after warnings the data is helping smugglers drive lizards, snakes and frogs to ‘near-extinction’.

Wildlife traders have been using locality information of scientific journals to find and hunt newly described species. The case of the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi) from Indonesia is given as an example. This species has almost been hunted to extinction for the pet trade after a newly distinct species was identified in Indonesia by a peer-reviewed paper in 1994.

Therefore, the IUCN has guidelines prohibiting the publication of location data for endangered species of high economic value that are threatened by the pet trade, but many journals do not yet.

Link to this web article online (English)

Dendrobates galactonatus

© Ron D Holt

Hawkbill sea turtle

© Kyle Van Houtan

4. Biological 'clock' discovered in sea turtle shells
SOURCE: - DATE: 6th January 2016

Atomic bomb fallout keeps time on ages, growth rates and onset of breeding

Radiocarbon dating of atomic bomb fallout found in sea turtle shells can be used to reliably estimate the ages, growth rates and reproductive maturity of sea turtle populations in the wild, a new study led by Duke University and NOAA researchers finds.

The technique provides more accurate estimates than other methods scientists currently use and may help shed new light on factors influencing the decline and lack of recovery of some endangered sea turtles populations.

Van Houtan and his colleagues analysed hard tissue from the shells of 36 deceased Hawksbill Sea Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) collected since the 1950s. The scientists were able to estimate each turtle's approximate age by comparing the bomb-testing radiocarbon accumulated in its shell to background rates of bomb-testing radiocarbon deposited in Hawaii's corals. Levels of carbon-14 increased rapidly in the biosphere from the mid-1950s to about 1970 as a result of Cold War-era nuclear tests but have dropped at predictable rates since then, allowing scientists to determine the age of an organism based on its carbon-14 content.

Link to this web article online (English)

5. The UK: At 183 years young, Jonathan the giant tortoise switches to a health-food diet
SOURCE: – DATE: 7th January 2016

The reptile, who lives on St Helena, is the world’s oldest animal and a recent bout of failing health has been ended thanks to his nutritious new menu

Jonathan - a Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa) - the world’s oldest living animal has been given a new lease of life after a vet put him on a healthy diet - at the age of 183. It was feared Jonathan the giant tortoise was on his last legs after his health seriously declined due to losing his eyesight and sense of smell. The afflictions meant Jonathan, who lives on the British outpost of St Helena Island, was left grabbing at insubstantial twigs, leaves and dirt for food. His plight was spotted by the island’s vet, Dr Joe Hollins, who immediately put him on a high-calorie and nutritious diet of a bowl of apples, carrots, cucumber, bananas and guava. Since the change Jonathan has started coming back out of his shell again. He has gained weight, redeveloped his sharp-edged beak to help him eat grass and become more active.

Link to this web article online (English)

Jonathan the turtle


Jonathan the turtle


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