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No. 87, 5th July 2013

1. World's Largest Freshwater Turtle Nearly Extinct

SOURCE: – DATE: 1st July, 2013

In June, researchers collected eggs from the last mating pair of the critically endangered Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) in the hopes that at least one will be fertile. The 220-pound (100-kilogram) freshwater giant, which spends most of its life burrowing in mud, was once common in its namesake Yangtze River, China's Lake Taihu and Yunnan Province, and parts of Vietnam.
By the late 1990s, however, human encroachment and poaching for use of the shells in Chinese traditional medicine rapidly depleted the population. Now, a total of four animals are known—two wild males in Vietnam and the mating pair at Suzhou Zoo.
It's the team's sixth year of breeding the turtles at the zoo, which is not far from Shanghai. So far, none of the eggs have hatched.
Researchers can't pinpoint the reason for the infertility, but they suspect a combination of factors, including poor sperm quality due to the male's age—roughly a hundred—an improper mating posture, and stress on the female.
Because the turtles are the last in captivity and too much human interaction could kill them, sperm samples cannot be taken nor tests run. Still, scientists are hoping that this year will be the lucky one.
"The resurrection of this iconic species in the wild, the largest freshwater turtle in the world, would be a symbol of hope," said Gerald Kuchling, founder of the Australia-based group Turtle Conservancy and a turtle-reproduction expert.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

© Vietnam News Agency/-AFP/Getty Images

2. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam: Wildlife market in Cu Chi

SOURCE: – DATE: 3rd July, 2013

Recently the trade of wild animals along the provincial highway 8 near Cu Chi district in Ho Chi Minh City has increased dramatically. Snakes, turtles, crow pheasants, frogs, eels and other wildlife are sold publicly on the street. Although the animals are still alive when they are sold to customers most of them only have short life expectancies: most of them are caught with electric fishing gear and are already weak when sold. Most people buy these rare animals as presents for friends and relatives or enjoy the wild animals themselves. Hunting and the trade of wildlife is illegal but the people who sell the animals say that it is the only way for them to make some extra money. Some experts argue that the unsustainable hunting activities in Cu Chi district could lead to the extinction of many species in the area in the near future.

Link to this web article online (Vietnamese)


Texas, USA: Two-headed Turtle Born in Texas Named Thelma and Louise

DATE: 27th June, 2013

A two-headed turtle has hatched at the San Antonio Zoo in Texas and officials have named her Thelma and Louise. The female Texas cooter (Pseudemys texana) hatched on the 18th of June and went on display the same week at the zoo's Friedrich Aquarium. Zoo spokeswoman Debbie Rios-Vanskike said that the two-headed turtle appears healthy and is able to swim and walk. She says experts at the zoo don't foresee any health issues for Thelma and Louise, named for the female duo in the 1991 Oscar-winning road movie of the same name. The San Antonio Zoo is no stranger to two-headed reptiles. The facility was home to a two-headed Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) named Janus from 1978 until the creature's death in 1995.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

Link 2 to this web article online (Vietnamese)

Link 3 to this web article online (English)


Kolkata: Population of rare turtles discovered in Botanical Gardens in Kolkata

DATE: 5th July, 2013

Scientists of the Indian Botanic Garden in Howrah have stumbled upon a huge colony of the Indian Roofed Turtle (Pangshura tecta) in one of the 24 lakes inside the garden. The scientists hope there are many more in the other lakes, along with other species, as well. The discovery becomes all the more important because the Indian Roofed Turtle, once abundant in Bengal and other parts of India, have now been listed as endangered. The species is also listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) red list of threatened species but categorized as a species of least concern. News of the discovery was sent to the Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society, a city-based NGO. “It's truly a remarkable find. An entire community of this species thriving in a pond and cut off from the rest of their population is very hard to find these days,” says Shailendra Singh of the Turtle Survival Alliance, an international alliance of turtle scientists.

Link to this web article online (English)

© AP Photo/San Antonio Zoo


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