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Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 6:37-39
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

NEWSNOTES

Summarized By Brigid Ranson
2193 Hendricks Rd., Pennsburg, PA 18073 USA; E-mail: ttnnewsnotes@aol.com

ASIA and AUSTRALIA

Mary River Turtle Survival
Greening Australia, a volunteer group based in Queensland, is working to save the Mary River Turtle. The group conducted a pilot study investigating the nesting habits of this endangered species. The study revealed enough new information to warrant applying for more federal aid to continue the research on a larger scale. The group hopes to learn enough about the little known species to begin protecting them and educating the public to do the same. Source: Australian Broadcasting Company, September 10, 2002

New Licensing Regulations in Western Australia
Under the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1950, new regulations are being introduced in Western Australia that prohibit taking amphibians and reptiles from the wild as pets. Previously, WA was the only state in the country without a licensing system. Strong controls to “ensure responsible ownership” will be implemented by the Department of Conservation and Land Management. Violators will be prosecuted. Source: Press Release September 21, 2002

Repatriation of Indian Star Tortoises
CITES officials in Singapore confiscated more than 1,800 illegally traded Indian Star Tortoises. They have been returned to India and will eventually be released into their natural habitat. The Singapore Zoo cared for the tortoises until their return to India, which was funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Wildlife Trust of India. Upon arrival in India, the tortoises were taken to the Hyderabad Zoo Rescue Centre where officials of the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology will test the DNA of the tortoises to determine their geographic origins. The tortoises will then be released in the appropriate locations. The Indian Star Tortoise is classified as “vulnerable” by the IUCN and is listed on Appendix II of CITES. The Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 grants them Schedule IV status – the least level of protection. Source: asalzberg@nyc.rr.com August 23, 2002

Protected Turtles Seized in Thailand
On September 9, forestry officials in the Nakhon Pathom’s Bang Len district of Bangkok confiscated an estimated 6,000 turtles. The turtles are protected under the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act and were believed to be in route to restaurants in Songkhla, which serve Chinese and Malaysian clientele. The turtles are now going to be released in Khao Laem and Sri Nakharin national parks in Kanchanaburi province. An additional 300 turtles, as well as other animals, were seized in Onnuj district the same day. Source: Bangkok Post, September 10, 2002

Thai Authorities Confiscate Illegal Turtle Cargo
Authorities in Thailand have seized over four tons of turtles bound for China at the Chiang Rai airport in Thailand. The turtles were seen through a crack in one of the boxes. Upon opening the boxes, 1,160 tightly packed turtles were found, ten of which were dead. Some of the turtles were endangered and charges have been filed against the consignee, SSukasem Company, for trafficking and smuggling endangered species. Source: Morning Herald (Australia), August 7, 2002

NORTH AMERICA

Canadian Turtle Disappearance
Connie Browne, a Lakehead University researcher, has been conducting a two-year study of the turtle populations in Point Pelee National Park, Canada. She found no spiny softshell turtles, which had never been abundant, or spotted turtles, which had been common. Another concern was the lack of juvenile Blanding’s and snapping turtles, which are vital for the continued success of those populations. The painted and map turtle populations appeared to be doing fine. Browne also studied some of the 175 nests found in the park. The nests along the roads were eaten, presumably by raccoons and only 45 % of the nests in the other parts of the park hatched. Browne recommends keeping raccoon populations within the park in check. She may have further suggestions when she completes her analysis of DDT presence in any eggs and examines data collected over the past 16 years on turtle roadkills within park boundaries. Source: Windsor Star (Ontario), September 3, 2002

Pennsylvania’s Bog Turtle
In Pennsylvania, sightings of bog turtles, a federally listed endangered species, have delayed a $12 million state road project and three residential housing developments, all located in close proximity to the Bushkill Creek. It took over a year, to negotiate acceptable revisions to one development (two houses were removed which allowed space for a wetlands area and buffer zone within the development’s boundaries). The Bushkill Township Zoning Officer has said that the other two development projects and Route 33 will have no affect on turtle habitat, but clearance to begin the projects has yet to be given. In a previous case after an 18-month delay, Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation was forced to make $2 million worth of changes for a construction plan through bog turtle habitat. Transportation officials and constructors in Pennsylvania now consider the bog turtle a major threat to development. Source: The Morning Call, August 27, 2002

Restoration to Terrapin Habitat
In the past, relatively inexpensive rocks and bulkheads have been used to stabilize shorelines. Unfortunately, this prevents diamondback terrapins from nesting in those areas and affects a variety of other organisms as well. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Department of Natural Resources and other organizations decided to do about this problem. In Prospect Bay, Maryland, they have replaced the bulkhead with 7,000 cubic yards of sand and native vegetation, stretching the previous 500 feet of beach to approximately 2,500 feet. Since the shoreline’s close proximity to open water does require some form of stabilization, watershed restoration scientist, Rob Schnabel of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, chose to use a limited number of rocks and biodegradable “biologs” instead of the bulkheads. The vegetation chosen for the project includes smooth cordgrass, wax myrtle, marsh hibiscus and other plants. As these plants take root and spread, they will also help to prevent the shoreline from eroding. The project is expected to be completed by late September at which time an offshore oyster bar was to be created. However, since the beginning of the restoration project, the water quality in the area has already improved, about 50 terrapin nests where counted early this summer, more shorebirds are feeding in the bay and crab populations have increased. Maryland announced a new initiative to save diamondback terrapins this summer and it is hoped that despite its more expensive nature, the benefits of projects like Prospect Bay will be recognized and become the norm in this and other states. Source: The Annapolis Gazette, September 9, 2002

Plea to Install Road Barriers and Culverts
In Tallahassee, Florida U.S. Route 27 cuts Lake Jackson into two parts. The road has become a migration route for resident turtles and other herps of the lake looking for mates, nesting areas or foraging sites. Matthew Aresco, a Florida State University student has been investing a lot of time, energy and money into saving the wildlife from the passing cars on Route 27. He claims that “this area has the highest number of documented [turtle] crossings in North America.” In an attempt to decrease this number he has installed a black nylon silt fence to funnel the wildlife towards the lone culvert under the highway. The fence’s effectiveness has been limited however because larger species such as mature softshells and snapping turtles simply go through or over the barrier. For this reason, Aresco has requested that the Florida Department of Transportation install concrete barriers and culverts along Route 27 similar to the ones installed on Route 441 in Paynes Prairie State Preserve. Jim Weimer of Paynes Prairie said that the barriers are “shockingly effective” and “the mortality has almost evaporated.” In order for the construction on Route 27 to occur, Aresco has to follow legal procedures that include getting the county to propose the work for federal aid and the local city planning organization to prioritize the plan. For more information, Aresco’s web site is www.lakejacksonturtles.org. Source: Tampa Tribune, October 7, 2002

Arrests Made at Reptile Show in Illinois
Law enforcement officials from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Food and Drug Administration, the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had been conducting a yearlong investigation into illegal reptile trade that climaxed at a “reptile swap” in mid September. Despite the raid, Lee Watson’s farm in Streamwood, the site of the swap for 12 years, has not been shut down. Some of the vendors were conducting legal trade, however, many were buying and selling protected species, unlicensed animals and undersized turtles. Illinois Conservation Police Investigator Michael Lyne said one man had more than 600 undersized turtles and was charged with “not having a license, not keeping records, commercialization of the resources and being over the limit. He was the worst in the number of turtles – but there were many others.” Lyne said that there is a 400 percent mark-up on baby turtles, which makes them a profitable venture. Fourteen vendors at the show were arrested, at least three more arrests are pending and 37 misdemeanor citations were issued. Source: Daily Herald, September 17, 2002

Desert Tortoise Conflict Continues
The implementation of grazing regulations on cattle in parts of the Mojave Desert is a victory for desert tortoise populations. However, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility are questioning how well the Bureau of Land Management is monitoring the pastures in the California Desert Conservation Area, especially during the present period of drought. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club are planning to send monitors to the area and “vow to seek contempt charges against the BLM if monitoring teams report violations.” Source: San Bernando County Sun, September 18, 2002

Legal Victory for California Desert Tortoises
In late August, a California couple pleaded guilty to illegally possessing 50 desert tortoises. Nine of the tortoises had been surrendered to TortoiseAid International in September of 2001, but further investigations by California Department of Fish and Game Warden Gary Densford disclosed 41 additional tortoises that were in desperate need of veterinary care. The couple was prosecuted and forced to pay restitution for the care of the tortoises and are prohibited from possessing any wildlife. TortoiseAid said about the case, “we hope this legal victory sends the message that crimes involving California’s protected wildlife will not be tolerated.” Source: TortoiseAid International Press Release, August 30, 2002

Zoo-bred Turtles Mate in the Wild
The Seattle Zoo in Washington State has been trying to revive the population of endangered western pond turtles (Emys marmorata - see cover photo) by releasing individuals from the zoo’s captive bred population. Recently, a Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist unearthed a nest of eight eggs laid by Turtle 218, a zoo-bred participant in the program who was released into the wild to mate. The eggs will be incubated until they hatch and then raised at the zoo for about one year before being returned to the wild. This was Turtle 218’s second time laying a nest, however none of the eggs from last year’s clutch hatched. The protected site of Steilacoom where the efforts are being concentrated is the only natural site in Western Washington where it is believed that the western pond turtle is breeding. Source: Associated Press – Seattle, September 17, 2002.

Missouri Endangered Species Re-Surfaces
This summer, two yellow mud turtles were found along a highway near Purdy, Missouri. On the states endangered species list, they were last seen in Missouri in 1964 along the same highway. One of the turtles had been hit by a car and is being rehabilitated at Springfield’s Dickerson Park Zoo. In the spring, Missouri’s chief herpetologist will begin trapping in the area in hopes of locating more for research purposes. Source: News Leader, August 25, 2002