Asian Turtle Program
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No. 31, 20th May 2012

1. Ha Noi city, Vietnam: Illegal wildlife trade of 310kg

DATE: 15th May 2012

In the morning of the 14th of May, Hanoi traffic police seized a large shipment of wildlife in a car on Thanh Tri Bridge. Police discovered 244kg of turtles, 56kg of iguanas; 4.5kg of snakes in the car bearing the license plate number No. Plate 90A-003.00. According to ENV, 240 animals were confiscated, including 16 Big-headed turtles (Platysternon megacephalum), 60 Giant Asian pond turtles (Heosemys grandis), 55 Elongated tortoises (Indotestudo elongata), 32 Yellow-headed temple turtles (Heosemys annandalii), 9 Water monitors (Varanus salvator), 65 Tokay Geckos (Gekko gecko) and 3 Rat snakes (Elaphe moellendorffii).
Total value of the shipments was approximately 300 million VND (approx. $14,200). All animals have been transferred to Soc Son rescue center on the 15th of May 2012.

Link 1 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

Link 3 to this web article online (Vietnamese)


2. USA: Turtles More Closely Related to Birds Than Lizards and Snakes, Genetic Evidence Shows

DATE: 17th May 2012

The evolutionary origin of turtles is one of the last unanswered questions in vertebrate evolution. Paleontological and morphological studies place turtles as either evolving from the ancestor of all reptiles or as evolving from the ancestor of snakes, lizards, and tuataras. Conflictingly, genetic studies place turtles as evolving from the ancestor of crocodilians and birds. Having recently looked at more than a thousand of the least-changed regions in the genomes of turtles and their closest relatives, a team of Boston University researchers has confirmed that turtles are most closely related to crocodilians and birds rather than to lizards, snakes, and tuataras. The researchers published their findings in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. By showing that turtles are closer relatives to crocodiles and birds (archosaurs) than lizards, snakes and tuatara (lepidosaurs), the study challenges previous anatomical and paleontological assessments. Nick Crawford, a post-graduate researcher in biology in BU's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and lead author of the study, achieved these findings by using computational analysis to examine regions of the different animals ' genomes.

Link 1 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)


3. USA: Two Years after BP Oil Disaster in Florida, Death of Gulf of Mexico Sea Turtles Continue

DATE: 21st May, 2012

It was the worst accidental oil spill in history, spewing some 750 million litres of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and provoking fears of an environmental Armageddon. With fishermen reportedly suicidal, President Barack Obama called it "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced" and said that the country would be "fighting the spill" for years to come.
However, nearly two years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, the Louisiana coastline bears little sign of the catastrophe that was beamed to living rooms around the world. Could it be that natural ecosystems are far more resilient than we realised? Three months later on the 15th of July, more than 6,000 birds, 600 sea turtles, 150 dolphins and thousands of fish had died, although it's impossible to say how many of these can be solely attributed to the spill. In addition, a third of Gulf fisheries were closed and more than 160km of shoreline had been impacted by oil, including ecologically sensitive salt marshes.

BP estimated the spill would cost around US$40 billion to clean up. Looking at the area now, you'd struggle to find evidence of the devastation, says Alex Kolker, a coastal oceanographer at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Chauvin. Kolker has been working on a project that takes aerial photographs using balloons and land-based shots of the most heavily oiled areas. However, one of the species hardest hit by the Deepwater Horizon disaster is the Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), one of the Gulf's most emblematic animals.

The Kemp's ridley sea turtle is an endangered species that rebounded from the brink of extinction after decades of bi-national conservation work in its coastal habitats in Texas and northeastern Mexico. Dr. Pamela Plotkin, Director of Texas Sea Grant and research professor at the Oceanography department of Texas A&M, said the documented number of Kemp ' s ridley nests plummeted by 35% from 2009 to 2010, the year of the BP disaster. “ We're really concerned, those of us who study sea turtles, that there have been some long-term impacts as a result of the oil spill,” commented Plotkin, adding that the number of nests have not recovered since 2010.

Link 1 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)

Link 3 to this web article online (English)

Link 4 to this web article online (English)




4. Quang Tri province, Vietnam. Capturing 2 quintals of wild animal on a car

DATE: 16th May 2012

On the 15th May 2012, the Police of Quang Tri Province stopped a car on Highway 1A of Dong Ha city. Police found 79 Clouded monitors (Varanus bengalensis) and five Giant Asian pond turtles (Heosemys grandis) the car. According to ENV all wildlife was released back to the wild on the same day.

Link 1 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)


5. Ha Tinh province, Vietnam. Training course for law enforcement against trafficking of wild animals

DATE: 18th May 2012

From the 15th to 19th of May, a training course for law enforcement officials dealing with the trafficking of wild animals was held in the city of Vinh (Nghe An) for the Ha Tinh and Quang Binh Provincial Forest Protection Department in. Ha Tinh is considered as a "hot spot" in the illegal wildlife trade. In the first 6 months of 2012, 3 large wildlife trafficking cases were detected in Ha Tinh, seizing 477.7 kg of pangolins, 1494.7 kg of monitors and 250 kg of turtles.

Link 1 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

6. Philippines: Repatriated Philippine Forest Turtles turned over to Katala Foundation

DATE: 28th April, 2012

They travelled from the Philippines to Hong Kong stuffed in a smuggler ' s bag with over 60 other reptiles, but on Friday the 27th April 2012, 18 Philippine Forest Turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis) were returned safely home and are doing well. The critically endangered turtles, found only in Palawan, were part of a consignment discovered by Hong Kong authorities in February. The smuggler's loot also included 16 Southeast Asian Box Turtles (Cuora amboinensis), 24 lizards, 16 pythons, one gliding snake, two Mangrove Snakes and a Common Mock Viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus).
Two of the original 20 Philippine Forest Turtles and a pair of the Southeast Asian Box Turtles (Cuora amboinensis) died before they reached the rescue centre in Hong Kong and another Southeast Asian Box Turtle died at the rescue centre.

The smuggler was convicted under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Ordinance and was fined HK$8,000 ($ 1,031).

Link to this web article online (English)


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