Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 2:14
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

New Efforts for Turtle Conservation—Conservation International (CI)

Kurt A. Buhlmann
Coordinator for Amphibian and Chelonian Conservation-Conservation International
and Program Officer for the IUCN/SSC Freshwater Turtle and Tortoise Specialist Group
Address: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802;

I recently joined the staff of Conservation International (CI), where I will be serving as Coordinator for Amphibian and Chelonian Conservation. CI is an international conservation organization with offices in 20 countries that focuses its conservation efforts primarily on biodiversity hotspots around the world. I will also be serving as the Program Officer for the IUCN’s SSC Freshwater Turtle and Tortoise Specialist Group. For the present, I will be working out of an office provided by the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) but will also be spending one week per month at CI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

My prior conservation experience includes work as a field zoologist for the Virginia Natural Heritage Program and The Nature Conservancy. I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Georgia in 1998 under the direction of Dr. Whit Gibbons, where I investigated the use of critical upland habitats and terrestrial corridors by turtles that inhabit seasonal wetlands. During that period I learned some fascinating things about the unique life history strategy of the chicken turtle, Deirochelys reticularia. Since that time, I have held a postdoctoral research position at SREL working with Dr. Gibbons and have also taught a herpetology course at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

One of my on-going projects with Conservation International includes the design of a landscape-level conservation strategy for amphibians that CI will be able to incorporate into existing conservation initiatives in various regions of the world. In December I traveled to Cambodia to attend the Workshop on Trade in Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles in Asia. It is a depressing situation for Asian turtles, but if we work together, it is hoped that we can hopefully prevent the extinction of these species. CI is committed to designing collaborative plans with other organizations and is seeking funds to establish a viable Asian turtle conservation strategy. A multi-faceted plan to insure the survival of Asia’s turtles will include the establishment of in-country conservation centers as well as ex situ insurance colonies. Field surveys will be important to document the habitat and basic ecology of many of these poorly known species. The range countries need support and encouragement to enforce legislation, to establish environmental education programs, and to protect natural areas. These plans will require a substantial fundraising effort. The crisis currently faced by Asian turtles provides an unprecedented opportunity for zoos, aquariums, university research scientists, government agencies, conservation organizations, private turtle hobbyists, and concerned individuals to form partnerships to prevent the loss of more than one-third of the world’s chelonians.

I will periodically provide the turtle community with updates through TTN as the project begins to take form. I look forward to hearing from anyone who wants to put effort into reptile and amphibian conservation initiatives.