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No. 121, 7th March 2014

1. Phu Yen province, Vietnam: New rumours threaten freshwater turtle populations in remote areas

DATE: 27th Feb 2014

Lately a dangerous rumour has been spreading in many provinces of Vietnam and more specifically in Phu Yen province in Central Vietnam. People are told it is lucrative to catch freshwater turtles, earning hundreds of millions Vietnamese dong (over $ 4000 per kg). Even farmers are selling their farming tools to buy trapping equipment for freshwater turtle hunting. Turtles caught are apparently sold to Chinese traders, however, farmers dream for the sake of dreaming. Experienced freshwater turtle hunters say that in many cases, locals do not exactly know how much a turtle is worth; therefore, the price depends much on the buyers. The trade issue becomes more pressing because in the mountainous areas of Son Hoa, Song Hinh, Dong Xuan districts of Phu Yen province there are some people seeking to buy turtles for high prices. After these middle-men buy a large amount of turtles they transfer them to China but nobody knows what happens next. Some locals guess that the turtles are sold to restaurants or they are bred by the Chinese on farms and in the end sold back to Vietnam for consumption for a huge profit. However, no Chinese trader has been sighted yet in Phu Yen province, and the rumours might just be a hoax.

ATP NOTE: the authorities in the province are aware of the situations and legislation that applies to tortoise and freshwater turtles in the province but to date no prosecutions have been made.  

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)

© Phuong Nam

2. Bangkok, Thailand: Bangkok a hub in recent tortoise trafficking incidents

DATE: 28th February 2014

Over a period of two weeks, authorities in Thailand, India and Hong Kong have intercepted three significant shipments of rare tortoises and freshwater turtles—all of them destined for or transiting Bangkok in Thailand - and rescued more than a thousand animals from smugglers. In a separate incident, on 11th February 2014, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) intercepted 233 tortoises and chameleons from a Malagasy passenger. The suspect, who flew from Madagascar and transited in Bangkok, was carrying 127 Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) , 10 Ploughshare Tortoises ( Astrochelys yniphora) and 96 chameleons (Brookesia) in his luggage. A day later, on 12th February, six men were arrested in Chennai for attempting to smuggle another 420 Indian Star Tortoises (Geochelone elegans) on a flight to Bangkok. The men roused the suspicion of Customs officials when odd-shaped features showed up during a scan of their baggage. Further checks revealed that the young tortoises were packed inside sealed pouches. The men are currently being investigated and face prosecution.

Link to this web article online (English)

© Royal Thai Customs

3. Fujian Province, China: Man snaps picture of kissing snapping turtle — gets bit on lip

DATE: 8th March 2014

They're called 'snapping' turtles for a very good reason, but this hapless animal lover just had to find out the hard way and ended up in hospital. The Chinese man was reportedly releasing the ferocious-looking creature into the wild but decided he had to give it a goodbye kiss first. Unfortunately the love was not exactly requited and the snapping turtle did what snapping turtles do and snapped him on the lip. Just as painfully for the victim, his embarrassment has ended up online. Pictures posted on China's version of Twitter, Weibo, show the moment the turtle clamped its jaws down on the hapless victim. Chinese media reported that the animal was an alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii). They are native to North America, and thought to be able to bite so hard they could amputate human fingers.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (English)

© Weibo

Geneva, Switzerland: Turtle car points to the future

DATE: 3rd March 2014

German car designers have come out of their shell with an odd creation for the 2014 Geneva motor show. Most concept cars lack practical details such as reversing mirrors or a gearbox, but the EDAG design house has gone further by creating a showpiece without wheels. Conceived as a showcase for potential engineering solutions, the spartan Genesis takes aim at conventional manufacturing techniques with a proposed solution from the animal kingdom. The company says its concept car “is based on the bionic patterns of a turtle, which has a shell that provides protection and cushioning and is part of the animal's bony structure”. The car has an exoskeleton which cannot be built using current production techniques but may be possible in the future.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)


5. Bracknell, United Kingdom   : Endangered tortoise trader from Bracknell sentenced

DATE: 27th February 2014

Wildlife crime police warned that illegal trade is being clamped down after a reptile expert was sentenced for selling endanger tortoises. Graham Martin, 36, of Furzemoors, Easthampstead, Bracknell, was sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £265 (~$440) in costs at Slough Magistrates' Court on the 24th February 2014. Martin, who runs Berkshire Reptile Rescue in Bracknell, was arrested last January for selling spur-thighed tortoises (Testudo graeca) and Hermann's tortoises (Testudo hermanni). This week he admitted the prohibited sale of protected species in Furzemoors last February as well as the unlawful use of protected species for commercial gain in Aldershot, Hampshire, in September 2012, and Wooburn Common, in Buckinghamshire, in November 2012. The most vulnerable species of animals and plants are protected through CITES (Control of Trade in Endangered Species), with their sale and commercial use strictly controlled by the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations 1997.

Link to this web article online (English)



Kien Giang Province, Vietnam:   Men get sentenced to 42 months in prison after hunting turtles in U Mimh Thuong National Park

DATE: 27th February 2014

On the 6th of August 2013, Le Van Hung and his son entered the protected area of U Minh Thuong National Park to trap eels. Within four days they not only caught 30kg of eels, they also caught four box turtles (ATP Note: most likely Cuora amboinensis occurring in the park), 20 yellow plastron turtles (ATP Note: not clear from the article but possibly Malayemys subtrijuga that occur in the park also ) and four Yellow-headed temple turtles (Heosemys annandalii) which are all listed in Vietnam's Endangered and rare species List. When Hung and his son were leaving the forest they were caught by forest rangers with the turtles. As a hunting violation and involving a protected species from the Endangered Species List of Vietnam the People's Police in Kien Giang province sentenced Hung to two and half years in prison and his son to one year in prison.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)


7. Washington, USA: Oil spills can cause heart attacks in dolphins, turtles

SOURCE: Indo Asian News Service;
DATE: 14th February 2014

A study by scientists has drawn attention to the previously under-appreciated risks to marine animals from crude oil exposure, with oil spills identified causing cardiac arrest and sudden death of dolphins, turtles and tunas.
Crude oil interferes with fish heart cells. The toxic consequence is a slowed heart rate, reduced cardiac contractility and irregular heartbeats that can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death, Scientists from Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have discovered. In the aftermath of an oil spill, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can persist for many years in marine habitats and cause a variety of adverse environmental effects.
The researchers report that oil interferes with cardiac cell excitability, contraction and relaxation -- vital processes for normal beat-to-beat contraction and pacing of the heart. The potassium ion channel -- where molecules flow in and out of the heart cells -- impacted in the tuna is responsible for restarting the heart muscle cell contraction cycle after every beat, and is highly conserved throughout vertebrates, raising the possibility that animals as diverse as tuna, turtles and dolphins might be affected similarly by crude oil exposure.

Link to this web article online (English)

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