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ATP WEEKLY TURTLE BULLETIN

No. 85, 21st June 2013



1. China: Unhatched turtles move to beat the heat

SOURCE: nature.com – DATE: 12th June, 2013

New research from a team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing suggests that turtle embryos move around within their eggs to regulate their body temperature, effectively allowing them to choose their gender. The find upends a long-held belief that the environment in which the mother turtle lays her eggs is the sole factor in gender determination in turtles.
"Our results from studying Chinese three-keeled pond turtle (Chinemys reevesii) embryos suggest that animals may actively select their own destiny/sex even at the very early stage of embryos," said Wei-Guo Du, an ecologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and leader of the research team. For many species of turtles, embryos developing in cooler conditions are primarily born male, whereas embryos developing in warmer conditions are mainly female. Du's research built upon prior work suggesting turtle embryos will move from cooler to warmers areas within their eggs, demonstrating turtles are responsive to heat as well and will seek cooler areas within the egg when exposed to extremely high temperatures.

ATP NOTE: due to the limited size and so temperature gradient within the egg it is likely that movement of the embryo could only marginally alter the incubation temperature that is largely determine by the environment. Any movement for selection would however be very interesting.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)


Link 2 to this web article online (English)

Link 3 to this web article online (English)

Link 4 to this web article online (Vietnamese)


© Nature production/Naturepl.com




Chinemys reevesii © Shutterstock



2. Ninh Thuan province, Vietnam: Observing nesting sea turtles in the land of sun

SOURCE: thethaovietnam.vn – DATE: 17th June, 2013

Phan Rang city in Ninh Thuận province is popular with tourists who visit to enjoy regional specialities such as grapes, wine or garlic. Another attraction is the ‘turtle beach' where sea turtles come to lay eggs. The headquarters of the sea turtles rescue and conservation management team which observes and helps hatchlings reaching the water is located there.
“So far no research has been carried out to explain why sea turtles choose this beach to lay eggs,” said Mr Vuong, head of the tourism department in Ninh Thuan Province. “Turtles always return to the place where they were born to lay eggs; after 40-50 days the eggs hatch. In the past local people used to hunt the turtles and collect their eggs because they weren't aware that these sea turtles are endangered. Thanks to education activities carried out in the area and legal enforcement, the number of turtles nesting here is rapidly increasing” – he added. During the nesting season, tourists can join the local turtle team in the evening to observe female turtles coming onshore, digging holes and laying eggs. After laying the eggs and covering the nests the females return to the sea.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)


© thethaovietnam.vn



3.
Bangkok, Thailand: Police seize 14 lions, other animals

SOURCE: bangkokpost.com
DATE: 10th June, 2013

Police arrested the owner of a house in Min Buri district, Bangkok, Thailand after they found 14 African lions (Panthera leo), 23 meerkats (Suricata suricatta), 17 marmoset monkeys (Callitrichidae family), 12 peacocks and various types of turtles and birds being kept on the property.
Pol Col Sarawut Jitrabeab, deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau's Division 3, said they arrested the house owner, Montri Boonphonon, 41, and charged him with illegal possession of and trade in protected wildlife. He said Mr Montri had been arrested before on similar charges, allegedly acting as a middleman connecting smugglers of African animals with buyers in Thailand.
Mr Montri insisted he had proper purchase documents for the animals. "We will wait for the owner to submit all the proper documents related to the animals," said Navee Changpirom, an official of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conversation Department specialising in the illegal wildlife trade.
Thailand hosted the 16th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pledged her support in the fight against the illegal trade in wild animals.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)



 


4. 
Will Asian pet stores kill of this endangered species?

SOURCE: takepart.com
DATE: 17th June, 2013

Madagascar is home to some of the rarest tortoises in the world, which in addition to being threatened by habitat loss and climate change, are also being pushed to the brink of extinction by the exotic pet trade.  Back in March 2013, officials at the international airport in Bangkok, Thailand, discovered suitcases stuffed with two of the rarest tortoise species in the world—ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) and radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata). In all, there were 75 critically endangered tortoises wrapped in cellophane and crammed into roller bags. The tortoises were headed for the pet markets, threatening the survival of these species.  Since their rescue from wildlife smugglers more than three months ago, the tortoises have been cared for at an undisclosed rescue center just outside of Bangkok, where many of the seized tortoises have since died.  The tortoises have yet to be returned to Madagascar because of the strict laws designed to help protect them. Because trade in these species is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the tortoises need a bevy of permits and paperwork to be approved before they can head home.  Even once the surviving tortoises return to Madagascar, it's hard for them to see their wild home again.  “Even after months of quarantine, it is too risky to expose the wild population to these tortoises, when we don't know where they have been or what they have been exposed to,” said Fiderana, a Malagasy veterinarian. While this may seem like a sad ending to an already upsetting story, the ploughshare breeding program in Madagascar, which is supported by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, has, over its 25 years of operation, released over 80 ploughshare tortoises into the wild. While there are believed to be perhaps as few as 400 tortoises in the wild, last year, wildlife experts confirmed that tortoises born in captivity and then released into the wild were successfully breeding—a small step on this species' long road to recovery, but definitely a step in the right direction.

Link to this web article online (English)


© Pattanapong Hirunard


© P.Tansom-TRAFFIC


5. Vietnam: 10 luxurious specialties for Vietnamese big spenders

SOURCE: kienthuc.net.vn – DATE: 17th June, 2013

In Vietnam, there are many unusual ways for the rich to show off their wealth and status.

1- "The alcoholic drink of millionaires," - Drinking wine mixed with rhino horn powder is becoming increasingly popular in Vietnam. On the black market, rhino horn is sold for approximately 100.000 USD/kg (about 2 billion VND) because of some unfounded myths about its medicinal value and use as a party drug. However, it is estimated that about 70% of the rhino horns traded in Vietnam are fake; most of them are made of PE (polyethylene), cows/oxes' horns or human hairs, etc.

2- The “golden turtle”, known to scientists as the critically endangered Chinese three-striped box turtle (Cuora trifasciata), nowadays fetches prices up to 50 million VND (~ 2,377 USD). People believe that they are extremely rare and since this species lives in the forest, people think that the animals absorb all of the healthy elements found in the forest, filling their bodies nutrients. For this reason, people believe eating a ‘golden turtle' will improve their health. Rumour has it that people with heart diseases benefit from drinking wine mixed with turtle bile or blood.”

3- One of the yummier specialties is eating a tiger's penis. A 200-kg tiger may be killed only to take its 2-gram penis. Tiger penises are sold to restaurants for approximately 5000 USD each (104 million VND) and are added to soups. This delicacy is believed to improve men's virility. Viagra, though much cheaper, is not rated as highly.

4- Gold also has become a food additive favourite. In the suburbs of Hanoi customers are served dishes sprinkled with gold flakes.

5- Mr Dang Le Nguyen Vu, CEO of the coffee company Trung Nguyen, confirmed that Trung Nguyen produces weasel coffee made from coffee berries eaten and excreted by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). This brand of coffee, called ‘Weasel' is sold for 3000 USD/kg (62.5 million VND). The method of collected faeces from wild civets has given way to intensive farming methods in which caged civets are force fed the coffee beans. In areas where this kind of coffee is popular chemically simulated versions are also produced.

6- For caviar, a specialty not only popular in Vietnam, prices soar to millions of USD per kg.

7- In the past, swiftlet eggs were eaten exclusively by members of royal families. It is an extremely expensive dish with the price of 30-50 million VND (~1426 USD-2377 USD) per kg.

8- Shark fin – the main ingredient of famous shark fin soup – is sold for approximately 20 million VND (~950 USD) per kg, which is considered to be quite reasonable. A small bowl of soup costs about 6 million VND (~285 USD).

9- Kobe beef is a popular ingredient in the traditional pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) offered in a restaurant in Hanoi. A bowl of pho with Kobe beef is sold for approximately 800.000 VND (~38 USD). Kobe cows are raised in Kobe District, Japan, and sold for 20 million VND/kg (~951 USD).

10- Bladder is used to cook nutritious food for people who are ill, slow-growing children and women who lack milk after giving birth. The price for dried bladder is as high at 25 million dong/kg (~1188 USD).


ATP NOTE:
the translated article here shows how extravagance and the apparent need for the vain display of wealth in Vietnam are contributing to the extinction of many species.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)



6.
UK: Rare spiny turtle hatches at Chester Zoo

SOURCE: bbc.co.uk
DATE: 18th June, 2013

Keepers at Chester Zoo are "absolutely ecstatic" following the birth of a rare spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa). The hatchling was the "first ever bred in the UK”. The species faces extinction in the wild because of habitat loss, hunting and the international pet trade. The turtle's parents were given to Chester Zoo after an illegal haul was confiscated by wildlife authorities in Hong Kong in 2000. Keeper Isolde McGeorge said when the turtles arrived at the zoo in 2011 they were "all very, very sick and we were really worried we were going to lose them. Twelve years later, to have now reached this momentous point where we've actually managed to breed them is incredibly satisfying.” The first spiny turtle to be bred in captivity in Europe hatched at the Durrell Conservation Trust in Jersey in 2004.

Link to this web article online (English)

 


7. 
China: Chinese vendors sell live fish and turtles as key chains

SOURCE: ryot.org
DATE: 26th March, 2013

Vendors in China are selling “key chains” that are actually small, plastic baggies with live turtles or fish sealed inside along with a “nutrient rich” solution meant to keep the critters alive for an extended period of time. In reality, they die rather quickly due to lack of oxygen. These key chains, which vendors hawk near the entrances of subways, are legal in China, which is known for its lax animal-protection laws. Rumor has it that once the fish or turtles die, they're usually enjoyed as a quick snack. The preparation? A mere 15 seconds in the microwave. The most popular serving suggestion? An ice-cold beer.

ATP NOTE: information on these awfully cruel key chain has been circulating for a while but the snack information is a new addition. It would be interesting to know if any chemicals are present in the key chains also.

Link to this web article online (English)



© Chester Zoo


© Dewey Hammond/YouTube


8. Bangladesh: Bostami turtles may go extinct!

SOURCE: dnaindia.com – DATE: 19th June, 2013

The Black softshell turtle or Bostami turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) is a rare species of freshwater turtle found in India (Assam) and Bangladesh (Chittagong). The Bostami turtle is only known to exist in a 6.4 acres (~0,025 km²) artificial pond (Baizid Bostami shrine) near Chittagong, Bangladesh where the 150 – 300 animals of this semi-captive population depend on humans for survival. The construction of concrete pools by the Matabari Temple Committee about a decade ago may have resulted in the deaths of a number of animals. According to the experts, it is the construction of the embankments that increased the mortality of the turtles spoiling the natural habitat as well as limiting places for the turtles to lay eggs. In the meeting of the State Wildlife Board chaired by Chief Minister Manik Sarkar on the 3rd of June, Roy Chowdhury, an environmentalist and a member of state Wildlife Board, suggested that the back side embankment of the lake be dismantled and land near the lake be acquired so that the turtles could lay eggs comfortably. He also suspected that there may be some genetic problem as breeding is taking place within a small community in the lakes or ponds. In 2002 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the species 2002 as extinct in the Wild. However, it has since been found that in Assam at least one wild population still exists.

Link to this web article online (English)



© Rohan Uddin Fahad



 
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