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No. 87, 5th July 2013

1. Madagascar: Madagascar Tortoise Smugglers Sentenced

SOURCE: – DATE: 20th June, 2013

A verdict has been reached in a tortoise smuggling case in Madagascar from July 2011. One of the smugglers arrested, along with three accomplices, were sentenced this week to two years in prison and a fine equivalent to $574,000 USD. This is the highest fine ever levied for tortoise smuggling in Madagascar. On the night of 24th July, 2011, 196 Critically Endangered tortoises were seized at Ivato International Airport. The group included 168 Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) , 27 Ploughshare Tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora)  and one Spider Tortoise (Pyxis). Two passengers were arrested, one of whom is already well-known by customs personnel. The smugglers' final intended destination was Indonesia, by way of Nairobi and Dubai. The Turtle Survival Alliance was charged with the care of all of the Radiated Tortoises, while the Ploughshare Tortoises were sent to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Herilala Randriamahazo (TSA Malagasy Tortoise Conservation Coordinator) cared for the Radiated Tortoises, most of which are very young, in the gardens of the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership in Antananarivo where he is based.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)

© Turtle Survival Alliance

2. Binh Dinh, Vietnam: 4-kg hawksbill sea turtle returned to sea

SOURCE:; – DATE: 25th June, 2013

On the morning of the 25th June, 2013, Department of Exploitation and Protection of Aquatic Resources (Binh Dinh Province) along with fishermen and volunteers from Nhon Hai Commune (Quy Nhon City), released a hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) to sea. It was reported that Vo Ngoc Lai from Quy Nhon City, had caught the hawksbill sea turtle in the evening of the 24th June. Following up on the report, local authorities visited Mr Vo at home to convinced him to release the turtle. The turtle measured 33cm in length, 28cm in width and weighed more than 4kg. Before it was released, officials attached a tracking device to the turtle's shell in order to monitor its movements. There are two hawksbill sea turtle nesting beaches in Quy Nhon City: Hai Giang beach and Hon Kho Island. Two volunteer groups were founded which patrol the beaches to protect the nesting sea turtles, the eggs and the hatchlings.

Link 1 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)


Special team flies to Bangkok to care for Critically Endangered Ploughshare tortoises

DATE: June 2013

This week Tsanta Fiderana, Malagasy veterinary officer for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust will travel to Bangkok on behalf of the Madagascar CITES management body as part of a joint mission with Dr. Paul Gibbons and Maurice Rodrigues of the Turtle Conservancy to assess the health of ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) recently trafficked out of Madagascar. The team will also be creating new enclosures that can be used for future confiscations of turtles and tortoises. Since their seizure in Bangkok, the turtles have been kept at a rescue centre, where it is difficult to provide the specific conditions they need. The tortoises are reported to be in poor health and there have been a number of deaths most likely due to the inadequate care they received from smugglers during the long journey from their home in north-western Madagascar.
Fiderana said: "My first priority when I get to Thailand is to work with the Thai veterinary team and our partners the Turtle Conservancy to evaluate the health of the tortoises through a thorough examination, and then to give them the care they need to re-establish their health." Richard Lewis, Programme director for Durrell in Madagascar said: "The ploughshare tortoise is perilously close to extinction. We think there are fewer than 400 adults left in their natural habitat. Even though the seized animals were mainly babies, losing 54 individuals from the wild represents a huge blow to the population, which is why we are doing everything we can to ensure their health and bring them back to Madagascar." Sahondra Rabesihanaka, of the Madagascar Forestry Department, said: "By adhering to CITES, the Government of Madagascar through the management committee, is aware that the loss of any species disrupts the whole country's biodiversity […] It is in this spirit that Madagascar is currently developing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Thailand for the repatriation of Malagasy tortoises seized there."

Link to this web article online (English)


India: 2000 turtles rescued, released in Kolleru Lake

DATE: 18th June, 2013

Forest Department officials of the Krishna district wildlife division rescued about 2,000 Indian flapshell turtles (Lissemys punctata), packed in 75 gunny bags meant for smuggling in Kalidindi village in the early hours of Wednesday, 12th June 2013. The officials rescued the turtles and released them into Kolleru Lake at Atapaka Bird Sanctuary.
The turtles were of different sizes, weighing between 200g and 2kg. They were believed to be collected from local ponds in the villages of Kaikalur, Kalidindi, Mandavalli and Mudinepalli and planned to be shipped to the state of Odisha or West Bengal in India. Indian flapshell turtles are protected under Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
People consume the turtles' meat and use the shell to make decorative items. The Forest Department confirmed that it will intensify patrolling on the borders of Krishna and West Godavari districts to prevent smuggling of turtles from ponds and canals in the villages.

Link to this web article online (English)



5. Khanh Hoa, Vietnam: 400-kg turtle released

SOURCE: – DATE: 25th June, 2013

In the morning of the 24th June 2013, the Department of Exploitation and Protection of Fishery Resources (DEPFR) (Khanh Hoa Province) in collaboration with Thuy Trieu border officials and Cam Lam Office of Agriculture released a 400-kg leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) back to the sea at Bai Dai beach. It was reported that some fishermen had spotted the turtle when it came on shore to lay eggs and flipped it over. A salesman named Nguyen Ngoc Tan witnessed the incident and reported it to the DEPFR. Mr Tan also volunteered to look after the turtle's nest until the approximately 100 eggs hatch.

Link 1 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

6. Slow demise

SOURCE: – DATE: 20th June, 2013

On the 15th of March , only a few days after conservationists discussed clamping down on wildlife smuggling at a recent CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) conference in Thailand, Thai authorities seized over 300 live tortoises at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, including 54 critically endangered ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) which are listed in Appendix I of CITES.
Experts estimate that as few as 400 ploughshare tortoises remain in the wild, meaning that the smugglers removed 14% of the wild population in Madagascar. Rising wealth in South-East Asia drives the demand for pet tortoises, which are popular for their rarity and appearance. They are considered status symbols. According to the Turtle Conservancy and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, another driving force behind the recent surge in the Malagasy tortoise trade stems from poachers' increased connectivity: mobile phones and the internet put dealers in touch with people residing in the ploughshares' remote habitat. Poaching also tends to spike during times of political instability. Another factor is the dwindling adherence to fady , a Malagasy tradition of taboos which prohibit harming tortoises. Concerned about the increasing seizures of tortoises Durrell, the Turtle Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and other NGOs active on the island asked the Malagasy government to ramp up enforcement of existing protections. Durrell and the Turtle Conservancy travelled to Bangkok to help Thai authorities care for the tortoises seized in March.
Last month, after checking on the tortoises, representatives of Durrell and the Turtle Conservancy met with the deputy director of Thailand's department of wildlife and plants to discuss conditions by which the tortoises may return to Madagascar. However it may take some time as the tortoises might need to be presented in court as evidence. In the meantime, the Turtle Conservancy wants to help establish a semi-permanent home for the tortoises—with a trained resident vet.

Link to this web article online (English)

© Turtle Conservancy/M.Rodrigues

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