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No. 66, 10th February 2013

1. Hanoi city, Vietnam: Special laboratory for the Hoan Kiem lake turtle

SOURCE: Phụ nữ today -
DATE: 3rd February, 2013

Follow up to Turtle Bulletin No.65: In case the Hoan Kiem lake turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is recognized as a national heritage animal, Prof. Ha Dinh Duc said it would be necessary to build a special laboratory to further study the animal and the species in general. He said that the laboratory would also act as an education facility to raise awareness to protect the turtle and its habitat.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)

2. Melbourne, Australia: Mother turtles know best

SOURCE: ScienceAlert Australia & New Zealand;
DATE: 6th February 2013

A team of Monash University researchers, led by Dr Anthony Rafferty, and colleagues at Healesville Sanctuary studied four species of turtle and discovered the egg-carrying female had the unique biological ability to wait to lay her eggs on land when conditions were right, giving her young the best chance of survival.
“It appears the female actively produces a mucus-like substance inside the reproductive tracts where the eggs are stored, to lower oxygen levels and cause the eggs to stop developing.” Dr Rafferty said. This allowed the turtle to select when and where to lay the eggs on land, taking into account access to adequate food sources and a secure environment. “After an egg is laid the membrane inside the egg connects and so the egg can't be turned at all or the young will die. We think she wants to stop the development of the egg before it reaches that stage because if she was laying the egg, and it turned at all during the laying, it would die if it were at any further stage of development.”
Dr Rafferty said this insight into evolutionary biology had implications for conservation, particularly the preservation of the endangered leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) because more than half of the eggs laid in each nest never hatch.

Link to this web article online (English)


3. Norwich, UK: Hawksbill turtles' monogamous sex life revealed

DATE: 4 th February 2013

Previously, little had been understood about the mating habits of hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), which live underwater and often far out at sea. Researchers from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK were surprised to find that the turtles are mainly monogamous, with females storing sperm from one male and using it to fertilise multiple egg clutches. This was discovered by DNA testing from hawksbill turtle hatchlings on Cousine Island in the Seychelles to identify how many males were involved in fertilising eggs during a breeding season. The tests revealed a monogamous mating system: most egg clutches were sired by just one male, and no males had fertilised more than one female during the 75-day season. The team hopes their study may help conservationists working on Cousine Island (Seychelles) to understand more about the lives of the animals and to focus their efforts.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)


4.  Costa Rica: After sea turtle deaths, officials to meet today to define strategy

SOURCE: Inside Costa Rica;
DATE: 5th February 2013

Follow up news from Bulletin 64: The Deputy Minister of Water and Oceans, Jose Lino Chaves, confirmed that the 294 sea turtles (Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) and black turtles (Chelonia mydas agassizii) found dead in Costa Rican waters in late January died because they drowned. Scientists responsible for the investigation and autopsies of the animals indicated that the animals were likely entangled in nets or fishing lines. This is a matter of great concern because it is not only this incident of 300 turtles dying but the general disappearance of rich marine wildlife that scientists are worried about. As a result, the Coastguard, the Costa Rican Institute of Fishing and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) and the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), will meet today to define a strategy for controlling environmental damage.

Link to this web article online (English)

5. Pampanga province, Philippines: Invasive Chinese turtle species threatens fish in Central Luzon

SOURCE: ABS CBNnews; - DATE: 6th February 2013

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Central Luzon, Philippines yesterday said they have received complaints from fishpond owners and operators about the growing population of the Chinese softshell turtle, (Pelodiscus sinensis), which had been preying on local fish species, and milkfish (Chanos chanos) and tilapia fingerlings. Classified as an invasive alien species (IAS) the turtles were introduced in the country in the 1990s, and are now considered a threat to local biodiversity and a pest in the multimillion-peso fishing industries of Pampanga, Bulacan and Bataan. The DENR has created a task force composed of biologists and conservation experts that will conduct a six-month study to determine the impact of the Chinese softshell turtle on the environment and the local fishing industry of the affected provinces.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)

6. Galapagos: Pinta Island Tortoise: Bringing the Extinct Back to Life

SOURCE: Green Answers;
DATE: 6th February 2013

It seemed like it was the end for the Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii), perhaps one of the world's most well-known reptiles, when Lonesome George (the sole survivor of his species) passed away on the 24 th of June 2013. But according to a group of researchers, even though the Pinta Island tortoise is now considered an extinct species there is still a great chance that we have not yet seen the last of this tortoise. A study funded by the Galapagos Conservancy involved taking blood samples of some 1,600 tortoises living on Wolf Island, a small island in the Galapagos archipelago. Researchers from Yale University and the Galapagos Park found that of the 1,600 tortoises that were tested, 17 had very similar genetic makeup to Lonesome George and other Pinta Island tortoises. These same scientists believe that through the careful cross-breeding of these 17 individuals can result in the 100% re-emergence of the Pinta Island species. For the time being, these lucky 17 have been transported to the Galapagos Park's breeding center on the island of Santa Cruz—the same island that inspired Charles Darwin to pen his theory of evolution. Now, this same spot will be the site of a new age of evolution and creation: that which, in effect, brings a species back to life.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)

7.  Tamil Nadu state, India: Sudden rise in turtle deaths along Chennai coast

SOURCE: The Hindu -
DATE: 5th February 2013

More than 120 Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) were found dead near Napier Bridge in Neelankarai, a census town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, by The Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) between the end of December and the 31 st January. Another 119 deaths were recorded on the shoreline from Neelankarai town ( Kancheepuram district ) up to Marakkanam town (Viluppuram district) by the volunteers of the TREE Foundation. Some years ago, following a request from conservationists, the local government agreed to switch off the high mast lights along the shore during the turtle nesting season between December and March because the lights supposedly attracted the turtles towards the shore, resulting in their deaths. However, Supraja Dharini from the TREE Foundation attributes the increase in the number of deaths to the tendency of trawlers fishing too close to the coastline and the use of gill nets by fishermen. With an increase in the demand for seer fish, many fishermen have started using these nets. Dr. Dharini explained that turtles get tangled in the gill nets and drown because the animals have to come up to the surface every 45 minutes to breathe. Inspection of the carcasses revealed the bloated bodies and bulging of both eyes and the neck indicate that the drowned, she said. Another problem is the use of ray fish nets in which turtles get entangled in wide mesh with a strong rope. Dr. Dharini said: “Sea turtles have been listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act on par with lions, tigers or leopards. Killing any animal or marine wildlife listed in this category can be severely punished. However, due to the lack of awareness, the death of marine wildlife such as sea turtles is often not put much importance to.”

Link to this web article online (English)

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