31 big-headed turtles released!!!

One of the Big-headed turtles released in this trip. We plan to release more Big-headed turtle and other endangered tortoise and freshwater turtles when 2019 summer comes. Photo by: Nguyen Thu Thuy – ATP/IMC.

We are so happy to announce that from the 30th– 31st September 2018, the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of the Indo-Myanmar Conservation (IMC) and the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) of Cuc Phuong National Park brought a total of 31 Big-headed turtles (Platysternon megacephalum) home to a protected area in northern Vietnam. It has been a long road as we have tried to meet the requirements as set in the IUCN guidelines for Re-introductions. This has meant we have had to undertake a genetic analysis for the species from tissues samples collected from wild or local trade (village level) animals from across Vietnam to look at the distribution of the species. This has been the first such study completed for the Big-headed Turtle in Vietnam and has been used to compare against those animals rescued and held at the TCC. This genetic study has been a partnership between the ATP and the Centre for Resources and Environmental Studies (CRES) from the University of Hanoi. We have also undertaken strict health screening which has including screening for pathogens, such as mycoplasma and herpes, with only animals that have tested negative can be released.

This is the first release so far of the endangered Big-headed Turtles that have been transferred to and successfully rehabilitated at the TCC since 2015. These confiscations are the result of significant efforts by the Forest Protection Department (FPD), Environmental Police and wildlife protection authorities in Vietnam and through cooperation of a number of wildlife rescue centres that show the Vietnamese authorities are serious about tackling the illegal wildlife trade. We have many more individuals waiting to be release and hope to conduct further health screening to allow these animals to get back to the wild in the near future.

We would like to thank Le Van Manh of Hue University of Science who has joined the release team as volunteer. Also thank you to our dedicated staff who have been working tirelessly in rescue, rehabilitate, and release of turtles. We would also like to thank the World Land Trust (WLT), Zoological Society of London (ZSL), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (CMZ), American Association of Zoo Keepers, Bristol Zoo, British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Thanh Truong Loc Construction Ltd. Company, Chevrolet Vietnam, Drayton Manor Park and Zoo, the HDH Wills Wildlife Maintenance Trust, Central Institute for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (CRES) and all individuals for their continuous supports of the rescues, rehabilitation, genetics analysis, health screening and release of the Big-headed turtle.

Date: 3rd October 2018
Press release by: Hoang Van Ha & Tim McCormack – ATP/IMC

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