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Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 5:24-27
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

Newsnotes

Please send newsarticles and press releases with sources and dates to

Brigid Ranson
193 Hendricks Road, Pennsburg, Pa 18073, U.S.A; E-mail: TTNnewsnotes@aol.com


AFRICA

Tortoise Poachers Convicted in South Africa: The new green crime unit of the Cape Nature Conservation organization was key in the conviction of two Slovak men for the collection, possession and transportation without required permits of 113 angulate tortoises. The men were apprehended November 14th and were convicted in early December under the Nature Conservation Ordinance. The tortoises are listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species as Appendix II, strictly limiting the trade of the tortoises and their parts. In the opinion of Fanie Bekker, Cape Nature Conservation’s director of operational services, “The huge success that we have recently enjoyed is substantial proof of the necessity of a strategic rather than an adhoc approach to environmental crime”. The men have been sentenced in Clanwilliam South Africa, to either two years in prison or a fine of approximately US $33,600.

Czech Poachers Convicted: Two Czech poachers were convicted of the illegal possession and hunting of fauna and flora native to the western cape of South Africa. Among the fauna collected were geometric tortoises, common padloper tortoises and angulate tortoises. The poachers were found guilty of all counts brought against them and fined according to the Cape Nature Conservation Ordinance and the South African National Parks Act. Source: Issued by Carol Hurd, Public Relations, Cape Nature Conservation, E-mail: churd@pawc.wcape.gov.za

ASIA

Three Problems Recognized with Turtle Raising in Thailand: Chairman of the Rayong Aquatic Animal Breeders’ Co-operatives, Phairat Arunvessaset, recognized several problems relating to the falling export price of turtle meat from Thailand. One problem is excessive turtle farming in several areas of Thailand. Mr. Phairat also reported that farmers need to improve hygiene standards in order to meet the requirements of importers. Finally, the export of young turtles to supply China’s increasing number of turtle farms must stop. Source: Herpdigest Vol 2 Issue 10

Importation of Red-Eared Sliders Banned in Korea: The Ministry of the Environment in Seoul, Korea has announced a ban on the importation of red-eared sliders. These turtles have become popular as pets and often are used in Buddhist rituals for freeing animals. However, this Mississippi River (U.S.A.) native is responsible for consuming freshwater fish, aquatic insects, frogs and snakes. This ban is in response to complaints about the volume of animals being consumed by the sliders.

Indonesia Reopens Flight Route To China: The shipping of cargo between China and Indonesia has increased. In response, Indonesia’s National carrier, Garuda, has reopened its route between Jakarta and Guangzhou. The majority of the cargo being trafficked is live turtles, perishable goods and marine products. Source: Garuda airline’s press release

Protected Species of Turtles Confiscated at Bangkok International Airport: Almost 2,000 turtles were intercepted at Bangkok International Airport November 26, 2001. Officials received a tip that the shipment of turtles that were declared as Red Ear Sliders were actually species restricted from trade. The Red Ear Slider is not protected and can be shipped in and out of Thailand freely. The shipment only contained two sliders and the rest were protected species native to Malaysia such as Heosemys grandis, Heosemys spinosa and Cuora amboinensis. The shipment was headed for Yunnan, China for use in seasonal medicinal purposes. Illegal trading of protected species is punishable by a maximum fine of Bt 40,000 and or imprisonment of up to four years. Source: The Nation, 11/27/01

NORTH AMERICA

The Vanishing marshes of Jamaica Bay: Jamaica Bay includes 10,000 acres of beaches, wetlands and woods in the New York metropolitan area and is home to a large and varied collection of flora and fauna, including possibly the largest urban population of diamondback terrapins. Despite the great development around the bay of highways, sewage treatment plants and the like, Jamaica Bay is in a great state of health. However, many acres of the bay are disappearing very quickly and the cause remains unknown. Scientists have speculated that several reasons for the problem such as dredging, run-off and massive mussel mortality. The National Park Service has budgeted $150,00 to spend trying to repair the area, but before an adequate solution can be begun, the cause of the disappearing land must be found. Source: The New York Times 7/6/01

Keeping Blanding’s Turtles from Being Roadkill: To stop Blanding’s turtles from attempting to cross highway 83 in Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, the Nebraska Department of Roads erected 5,360 feet of three foot high fence to herd the turtles through under the road culverts. Blanding’s turtles are nationally listed as a species of special concern. By erecting the fence near the wetlands that the turtles call home, it is hoped that this precautionary measure will help to keep Blanding’s turtles from heading towards threatened or endangered status. Source: Omaha World-Herald 9/11/01

Turtles Added to Species of Special Concern List: The Department of Environmental Protection’s endangered and non game species program has created a new list for species in New Jersey that could benefit from further study. The species on the special concerns list have no legal protection but are in need of further study before they reach the population point at which they would need to be listed as threatened or endangered. The spotted turtle, eastern box turtle and diamondback terrapin are among the species listed. Source: Press of Atlantic City, 12/11/01

Blanding’s Turtles Lose Nesting Grounds: A community of rare Blanding’s turtles may lose their nesting grounds to a strip mall in McHenry County, Illinois. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said that the colony of turtles in that particular area is about 70 and is the largest in the county, if not the entire state. Conservationists in the area are concerned that the turtles, already listed by the state as threatened, will be in even greater danger once the mall is established and nesting grounds destroyed. The developers who are building the group of stores have said that they do not believe they are disrupting the area where the turtles nest and will work with the state to find a compromise for developing the site. Although the state can create laws to protect species, the decision on how to develop land is made by local authorities. To combat some of the negative effects of the development, the state would like the builders to establish barriers between the turtles’ marsh and to create areas similar to those in which the turtles prefer to nest. Source: Beacon News, 12/28/01

Ranchers vs. Desert Tortoises: Early in 2001, an agreement was reached between the Bureau of Land Management and several environmental groups to protect millions of acres of land between the eastern Sierra and the Mexican Border. Most of the land is inside the borders of the California Desert Conservation Area. The agreement restricted activity on the land that would threaten the fragile desert habitat or any of its 24 endangered or threatened species. Part of the settlement required ranchers using public land to graze their cattle to remove the livestock from the protected area during the periods that the desert tortoise is most active – March 1st to June 15th and Sept. 7th to Nov. 7th. Cattle are detrimental to desert tortoise health because they out-compete the tortoise for food, collapse tortoise burrows and import nonnative plant species on their fur and hooves. Several ranchers appealed the order by Bureau of Land Management in July, claiming that this will mean an end to their livelihood. On August 24th, an administrative law judge with the Department of the Interior decided that the cattle should be removed from the land by September 7th. The Bureau of Land Management argued that to coordinate the removal with the ranchers by the designated deadline was unrealistic. However, the order remains that the cattle must be removed from the protected land. Sources: Los Angeles Times 9/6/01 and 7/25/01, The Press-Enterprise, Barstow, 7/25/01

Motor Vehicles vs. Desert Tortoises: In October of 2001, the Bureau of Land Management issued a decision record that temporarily closed approximately 3,200 acres of public land to motorized vehicle use in the California Desert Conservation Area. This decision was part of a settlement agreement in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility regarding the Endangered Species Act. By closing this area to traffic, the state and federally protected desert tortoise will be provided with more protection, as will its habitat. The duration of the closing was from the time the record of decision was issued until the signing of the West Mojave Plan, which is expected to be June of 2003. Authority for the closure is found in 43 Code of Federal Regulations 8341.2(a). Source: Bureau of Land Management Press Release, 10/19/01, CA-610-02-06, CA-610-02-07, CA-610-02-08

The United States Army vs. Desert Tortoise: Public lands and critical desert tortoise habitat are now going to be used as an area for tank training by the U.S. Army. An amendment was approved on August 1 of 2001 that allows the U.S. Army to expand Fort Irwin National Training Center in the Mojave Desert in southern California by 110,000 acres. The legislation does not make the Army accountable for the cost of the additional land or restoration projects that will need to be implemented to combat the effects of the expansion. The augmentation of the center will severely compromise the existence of the desert tortoise and the endangered Lane Mountain milkvtech, both of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The land acquired by the army also includes part or all of two Wilderness Study Areas in the Avawatz Mountains. Source: Press Release 8/2/01, San Bernardino Sun 7/17/01, Desert Dispatch 7/17/01

Search for the Cause of Gopher Tortoise Die-Off: Staffs at Rock Springs Run State Reserve near Orlando, Florida have found a large number of dead gopher tortoises in the area of their park. In August, it was estimated that 120 to 140 dead tortoises were found in a 200 acre area. The cause of death from animals of humans has been ruled out and biologists are looking for any leads. Please respond to the address below if you know of any locations were the gopher tortoise population has decreased by 25% or more. Ray Ashton, Ashton Biodiversity Research and Preservation institute, Inc., 14260 W. Newberry Rd. #331, Newberry FL. 32669; Phone: 352-495-7449; E-mail: Tortfarm2@aol.com

Protecting Alligator Snappers in Louisiana: Alligator snappers face numerous threats such as pollution, dredging, dams, development and the palate of human consumers. Twelve of the 13 states that have alligator snappers have laws to protect them. The IUCN lists them as vulnerable and the American Zoological Association declared them as one of three turtles in need of help. The alligator snapper is not protected in Louisiana. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries claim the snappers are not in need of protection because they believe their are numerous amounts of turtles present in the wild. Some biologists agree with the fact that alligator snappers are not in immediate danger of becoming endangered. However, the overall consensus is that the odds of the alligator snapper remaining at a healthy population level are slim if regulations against the collection and possession of the snappers are not created. Source: Bangor Daily News 9/03/01

Assault Against a Galapagos Tortoise: Pedro, a Galapagos tortoise living at the Cypress Garden in Charleston, south Carolina was assaulted and a $1500 reward is being offered for an arrest of the culprit(s). The attack occurred an evening that the park was open for a wedding reception. Rocks and bricks were thrown into Pedro’s pen causing some superficial injuries and also breaking some bones. His enclosure is being remodeled and a guard has been posted for Pedro’s protection. Source: Associated Press-Charleston 9/15/01

18 Acre Purchase Made by the Nature Conservancy: The towns of Sandwich and Barnstable in Massachusetts have protected parcels of land that were recently connected by a purchase made by the Nature Conservancy. The 18 acre area of land on Sandy Neck that was purchased for $1.25 million is a nesting and feeding ground for many animals including diamondback terrapins. By connecting the larger parcels of land, the Nature Conservancy’s purchase has helped to create a safe passageway for species from one area to the other and also ensure the protection of the land for years to come. Source: asalzberg@nyc.rr.com 10/23/01

Nebraska Wildlife Regulations Updated: The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission banned commercial exploitation of 62 of Nebraska’s reptile and amphibian species during a mid-January public hearing. Tens of thousands of ornate box turtles, western painted turtles, yellow mud turtles, red ear sliders and many other herpetofauna will now be protected from capture and sale by dealers. There are several exceptions to the regulations. Scientists may apply for collection permits for research purposes, two species of leopard frogs and tiger salamanders may be collected for fishing bait, and hobbyists may still collect a limited number of designated reptiles and amphibians as pets. Source: Lincoln Journal Star, 1/16/02

Soft-Shell Turtle Safety in Lake Champlain: Debate over the true effects of a bridge on the population of threatened Spiny Soft-Shell turtles in Lake Champlain has residents of the area arguing over what is best for the turtle. The Agency of Transportation (AOT) says that the bridge now in place over Missisquoui Bay in Vermont is dangerous to travel and needs to be replaced. However, biologists say that the mud at the base of the bridge offers protection for hibernating turtles and when the bridge is not in use, the turtles will use it as an artificial beach to sun themselves. Under state law, the threatened species must be protected. The Fish & Wildlife Department has required the AOT to leave the bridge in place. Residents of the area argue that leaving the bridge in place will hurt the turtles more than removing it would. They say that the gravel causeways that will also remain in place are choking the bay and may hurt the turtles in the end. Others say that the bridge structures block water circulation in the bay and removing the bridge would enable more pollutants and sediment to be flushed from the bay. As of now, the compromise between the AOT and the state is that a new bridge will be constructed near the one currently in place and part of the older bridge will not be demolished. Bridge construction will also only occur at times that will not interfere with turtle safety. Source: The Associated Press, Alburg, 1/27/02; Channel 3 News Website Rutland, Vermont, 1/30/02

Questionable Intent of Cape Coral Developers: Grosse Point Development Company of Fort Myers, Florida are trying to reassure concerned citizens of the Cape Coral area that resident gopher tortoises of land they intend to develop will not be harmed by the planned construction. The gopher tortoise is listed as a species of special concern by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This title requires that builders must follow strict regulations when developing land where the tortoises live. Grosse Point Development Company has said that they intend to move the tortoises to an area of land adjacent to the property being developed. However, the company applied for an “incidental take permit” from the state, which would allow the company to bulldoze the area without concern for the tortoises. The take permit would cost Grosse Point Developers $50,000 to $60,000 and the money would go to establishing gopher tortoise habitat elsewhere in the state. This is the most cost-effective way to deal with the gopher tortoises however, Grosse Point Developers had told citizens that they would not injure the special residents of the property. At the time of press, the intent of the developing company was still unclear. Source: News-Press.com, 1/26/02.

Bahamas’ Cat Island Turtles in Trouble: The Cat Island turtle, Trachemys terrapin, has had a problematic history that does not seem to be getting any better. It is not certain that this turtle is endemic to the Bahamas. Even so, Cat Island is the stronghold for the population of less than 200 turtles. The turtles’ 50 hectare distribution area is the interface between people and freshwater making the turtles compete for habitat with humans. After last summer’s shooting of the Cat Island turtle, more attention was drawn to the species. When attempting to find the culprit, it was discovered that although the cat island turtle is listed as endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, there is no protection for the turtle. People can legally hunt, kill, eat and capture the turtle without penalty. In response to the turtles’ situation, conservation leaders in the area, particularly Dave Lee of the Tortoise Reserve, are focusing more attention on education. They are making the situation high profile in the area using such techniques as a conservation poster contest with awards from several other conservation groups such as the Mid Atlantic Turtle Society. Source: Personal Interview with Dave Lee