Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 1:3-4
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

Letter from the Editors

Heather Kalb1 and Allen Salzberg2
1Dept. Biology, TAMU, College Station, TX 77845
267-87 Booth Street, #5b, Forest Hills, New York 11375 USA

Welcome to the first edition of the Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter. As editors of this newsletter, we hope to provide you with a wide variety of articles from the news, current research, and the conservation front, as well as requests for information, conference announcements and any other information that needs to be distributed in a timely manner.

Now is a desperate time for most species of turtles. Many of you who are on the mailing list are already aware of the problems facing chelonians, but some of you are not yet aware of these problems or the severity. As you read through this edition, you will learn about the problems turtles face in Southeast Asia. For those of you with a love for turtles, now is the time for you to take an active interest in their conservation.

So what is our, your editors, personal interest in turtles? As with probably all herpetologists, Heather’s first introduction to turtles was with a family “pet” when she was young - in this case, an eastern box turtle collected from the middle of the local highway. After endearing the family to his turtlish ways, the family collection grew to at least 20 some box turtles, terrapins, and sliders - all highway rescues. Today, it is very rare to see any turtles along those same roads. Volunteer work on Pritchard’s Island, South Carolina and an internship at the Smithsonian introduced her to sea turtles. She obtained her graduate degree at Texas A&M University after studying olive ridley sea turtles in Costa Rica.

Allen attributes his active role in educating people about reptiles and amphibians to his early role model, Roger Tory Peterson. Peterson wrote “A Field Guide to the Birds,” one of the most important ornithological field books, yet he had absolutely no formal training. Peterson just loved birds and watched them wherever he went. He originally made his living painting furniture. Allen makes his living as a writer, but spends his freetime in the passionate pursuit of turtle conservation. He is the compiler of HerpDigest (an excellent email source of news articles), and along with his wife, Anita, wrote the children’s book “Turtles.” Allen is also a past board member of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society.

This newsletter is affiliated with the IUCN/SSC’s Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG). For those of you not familar with the IUCN and the specialist groups, let us introduce them. The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature-also known as The World Conservation Union) was formed in 1948 with the general goal to protect nature. Belonging to this union are over 100 governments, 105 government agencies (such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife in Kenya, the Chilean Forest Service, and the National Council for the Conservation of Wildlife in Pakistan), and more than 700 non-governmental organizations (ranging from Friends of the Earth to the Wildlife Clubs of Uganda)(IUCN website).

One part of the IUCN is the Species Survival Commission (SSC), whose objective is to conserve biological diversity by developing and executing programs to study, save, restore, and manage wisely species and their habitats (SSC website). The SSC is comprised of over 7,000 volunteers from 179 countries who are divided into more than 100 specialist groups. Some of the specialist groups are oriented towards specific types of plants and animals, i.e. the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG) and the Marine Turtle Specialist Group, while other groups are focused on specific topics, i.e. sustainable use of species.

The TFTSG has 105 members and is chaired by John Behler of the Wildlife Conservation Society. In addition, Conservation International has recently announced that they will finance a program officer position for this group. A program officer is the only paid person devoted to the issues of the specialist group. Very few specialist groups can afford program officers, thus it is with great joy that we welcome Kurt Buhlmann, Ph.D. to this position. For those of you who know Kurt, you know that with his energy and enthusiasm directed full-time to the preservation of freshwater turtles and tortoises our odds of success are bound to improve.

The subscribers to this newsletter range from distinquished researchers and conservationists to high school students with simply a desire to learn more about turtles. This newsletter is for anyone with even the slightest interest in turtles, and perhaps even for their friends, who have not yet developed an interest in turtles. For those of you who were loyal supporters of the Box Turtle Research and Conservation Newsletter, Heather thanks you for your past encouragement and contributions and hopes that you will find this newsletter to be even more informative and useful. If there is anything that we, as your editors, can do to make this newsletter more useful please let us know.