Turtle Survival Alliance

Hlaing Township, Myanmar

Turtle Survival Alliance

Hlaing Township, Myanmar
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News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.treehugger.com

With fewer than five female Burmese roofed turtles remaining in the wild, the discovery and protection of two viable egg clutches is cause for celebration. For a while it was believed that the Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata) had gone the way of the dodo. Found only in Myanmar, the beautiful turtles were once common in the Ayeyarwady-Chindwin River system, but their numbers dropped steadily during the last half of the 20th century. After a long absence, however, a few members of the species were discovered and an assurance colony was started at a nearby zoo. Eleven years ago, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)/Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) scientists stepped in and began identifying and protecting nesting sites along the Chindwin River. And it’s been slow going. In 2014, just a single viable egg was deposited; in 2015 there were none. In 2016, there was a single viable clutch. But this year, fingers crossed … break out the cigars! The scientists have announced the recovery of 44 fertile eggs. Three clutches were found in total; two of the clutches contained viable eggs, but the third, located elsewhere, did not. All the eggs have been weighed and measured and are now in a protected incubation site on the sandbank where they were found. They receive monitoring 24 hours a day. The team expects the babies to emerge in early June, at which point they will be taken to another facility where they will live four or five years. Once they are big enough to be safe from predators, they will be released back into the river. WCS is working hard on behalf of the beleaguered turtles; last year in tandem with the Yadanabon Zoo they modified the turtles’ diet and built an additional sandbank for nesting. This seems to have spurred more reproduction, with eggs having been deposited in both sandbanks this year. Even with a number of initiatives in place, the combination of overharvesting of eggs, incidental loss in fishing gear, and habitat loss due to gold mining continues to push the species closer to extinction. But with 44 new wild-hatched hatchlings hopefully on their way, and more being raised in protected environments, the fate of the Burmese roofed turtle may not be as bleak as it would have been otherwise. “Every year we hold our breath until the females emerge from the river and lay their eggs,” says Steven Platt, Regional Herpetologist for WCS’s Myanmar Program. “We were delighted to collect so many viable eggs this year, but we still have a long way to go before we have a secure wild population of these turtles in the Chindwin River.” Read more about the "extraordinary egg hunt" and how you can help, visit WCS.

Gascon C.,National Fish and Wildlife Foundation | Collins J.P.,Arizona State University | Church D.R.,Global Wildlife Conservation | Moore R.D.,Wildlife Conservation Society | And 23 more authors.
Alytes | Year: 2012

In 2005, the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International (CI) convened the Amphibian Conservation Summit to design a global plan of action, the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP), to address the decline of amphibian populations worldwide. The IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) was formed in 2006 to implement the ACAP. The ASG's objectives are to facilitate the development of new policies within national and international arenas, as well as within the private sector, and to actively develop projects, locally and regionally, all aimed at preventing further species extinctions. The ACAP provides an estimate of the budget required for actions needed to address global priorities for conservation. A strategy and budget for priorities ensures that actions align with areas, geographic and thematic, in greatest need. A critical next step towards advancing the ACAP is refining its objectives within the context of national and regional strategies and engagement by national resource management agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for successful implementation of conservation actions. To this end, the ASG and partners have been facilitating the convening of working groups to develop strategies for advancing policy development to enable implementation of on-the-ground conservation management within specific regions and countries. A review of strategies in development and completed indicates that conservation planning at the scale of nations and regions is an important step toward reconciling some debates on what actions are of highest priority for global amphibian conservation and illustrates how priorities vary geographically. However, successful translation of scientifically based strategic plans into conservation action in the field has not occurred widely, partly due to a lack of follow up in engaging governments and NGOs to incorporate the plans into their directives. Continued pressure on governments and NGOs is needed to use species assessments as the metric for determining the status of the environment, and amphibian conservation plans as one of the roadmaps for how funding should be allocated to maintain and improve the health of natural ecosystems. © ISSCA 2012.

PubMed | Madagasikara Voakajy, University of Antananarivo, Museo Regionale di Science Naturali, Ministere de lEnvironnement et des Forets and 17 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2014

An understanding of the conservation status of Madagascars endemic reptile species is needed to underpin conservation planning and priority setting in this global biodiversity hotspot, and to complement existing information on the islands mammals, birds and amphibians. We report here on the first systematic assessment of the extinction risk of endemic and native non-marine Malagasy snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises.Species range maps from The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species were analysed to determine patterns in the distribution of threatened reptile species. These data, in addition to information on threats, were used to identify priority areas and actions for conservation. Thirty-nine percent of the data-sufficient Malagasy reptiles in our analyses are threatened with extinction. Areas in the north, west and south-east were identified as having more threatened species than expected and are therefore conservation priorities. Habitat degradation caused by wood harvesting and non-timber crops was the most pervasive threat. The direct removal of reptiles for international trade and human consumption threatened relatively few species, but were the primary threats for tortoises. Nine threatened reptile species are endemic to recently created protected areas.With a few alarming exceptions, the threatened endemic reptiles of Madagascar occur within the national network of protected areas, including some taxa that are only found in new protected areas. Threats to these species, however, operate inside and outside protected area boundaries. This analysis has identified priority sites for reptile conservation and completes the conservation assessment of terrestrial vertebrates in Madagascar which will facilitate conservation planning, monitoring and wise-decision making. In sharp contrast with the amphibians, there is significant reptile diversity and regional endemism in the southern and western regions of Madagascar and this study highlights the importance of these arid regions to conserving the islands biodiversity.

News Article | September 27, 2016
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

The ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) could be extinct in the wild in as little as two years if the government of Madagascar does not immediately step up and take action to protect them. That stark warning, from a quintet of conservation organizations, came this week as government representatives gathered in Johannesburg for the triennial meeting of the parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Protecting the ploughshare tortoise is just one of many items on the agenda for the 12-day event. Also known as the Angonoka tortoise, the ploughshare is one of the rarest turtle species on the planet, which makes it even more valuable to collectors, who keep the animals as luxury “pets.” As a result, poaching of these turtles has come close to wiping the species out at its only wild habitat, Madagascar’s Baly Bay National Park. Back in 2013, the wild population was estimated at 400 to 600 tortoises. Now the conservation organizations warn that the population has fallen to fewer than 100 mature animals and that poaching levels have reached their highest levels to date. All of this has gone on right under the noses of the Malagasy authorities. As a result, the five conservation groups—the Wildlife Conservation Society, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Turtle Survival Alliance, Turtle Conservancy and Global Wildlife Conservation—are calling on the government of Madagascar to finally start enforcing its existing anti-poaching and anti-trafficking laws. “At this point the fate of the tortoise is up to the government of Madagascar,” Peter Paul van Dijk, the Turtle Conservancy’s field conservation programs director, said in a prepared statement. “Conservationists can’t go in and be the police force or the customs official or the border inspections officer at the airport.” Why is this international meeting the opportunity to bring this up? The species is already listed on CITES Appendix 1, which means that all international trade in the tortoises is currently banned among the treaty’s signatories. Still, the groups say this is an opportunity to draw attention to the crisis, get the world’s attention, and hopefully inspire collaboration between Madagascar and the countries to which the tortoises are being smuggled. Most importantly, however, they want to get Madagascar’s attention. “At the end of the day, it is up to Madagascar to seize these opportunities and take control of this trade,” said Richard Lewis, director of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Madagascar program. It’s no surprise that Madagascar hasn’t had much luck protecting these tortoises. Madagascar one of the ten poorest countries in the world and the site of tumultuous political upheaval over the past few years, none of which ever seems to get much notice by the international community. Will this international attention be enough to help turn the tide, if not for the whole country but for at least one of its rarest endemic species? I guess we’ll know the answer to that in about two years.

Rainwater T.R.,Medical University of South Carolina | Rainwater T.R.,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | Pop T.,Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education BFREE | Cal O.,YaAxche Conservation Trust | And 3 more authors.
Chelonian Conservation and Biology | Year: 2012

The Central American river turtle (Dermatemys mawii) is a large Critically Endangered freshwater turtle historically found in the coastal lowlands of southern Mexico, northern Guatemala, and Belize. Due to years of intense harvesting for its meat, D. mawii has been virtually eliminated from much of its former range in southern Mexico, while its status in Guatemala remains unclear. During April and May 2010, we conducted a countrywide survey in Belize to assess the current conservation status of D. mawii in what is believed to be its last stronghold. We surveyed approximately 30 localities from deep southern to extreme northern Belize, including 17 areas previously surveyed during the early 1980s and 1990s. Results indicate D. mawii is heavily depleted in most of Belize, but healthy populations remain in a few remote areas (including multiple, previously unsurveyed localities in southern Belize), especially those receiving some level of protection. While this mirrors the trend observed in previous surveys, the current findings are of particular concern because the number of localities where turtles were observed and the number of turtles observed at these localities were both much reduced compared to earlier surveys. Large turtles (reproductive adults) continue to be targeted during harvests, significantly reducing the most demographically important segment of the population. Further, interviews with fishermen and hunters indicate that laws and regulations enacted for the protection of D. mawii are largely ignored by locals, as broad-scale enforcement is difficult or impossible to achieve. In this paper, we discuss survey results in the context of previous investigations, describe levels and sources of exploitation, and provide conservation recommendations. © 2012 Chelonian Research Foundation.

Platt S.G.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Platt K.,Turtle Survival Alliance | Khaing L.L.,Lawkanandar Wildlife Sanctuary | Yu T.T.,Shwe Settaw Wildlife Sanctuary | And 4 more authors.
Chelonian Conservation and Biology | Year: 2014

The Arakan forest turtle (Heosemys depressa) is a critically endangered, poorly known chelonian endemic to western Myanmar. Previously known only from the Rakhine (=Arakan) Hills, we here report a significant northward range extension into the southern Chin Hills, verify the occurrence of H. depressa in Kyauk Pan Taung Wildlife Sanctuary, and present new information on elevational limits, natural history, and folk taxonomy of this enigmatic species. © 2014 Chelonian Research Foundation.

Platt K.,Turtle Survival Alliance | Platt S.G.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Rainwater T.R.,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Chelonian Conservation and Biology | Year: 2014

We report the first specimen-based records of Heosemys spinosa (Gray 1830) from Myanmar, validating earlier assumptions of its occurrence within the country. Our records consist of 5 living H. spinosa examined at Kan Baw Gyi Village in Tanintharyi Region of southern Myanmar. These specimens originated from seasonally inundated lowland riparian wetlands near the village where we examined them. Potential threats to H. spinosa in southern Myanmar include subsistence and commercial harvesting and, most importantly, the widespread conversion of natural forests to oil palm plantations. © 2014 Chelonian Research Foundation.

Platt S.G.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Platt K.,Turtle Survival Alliance | Naing T.Z.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Meng H.,Natma Taung National Park | And 6 more authors.
Ethnobiology Letters | Year: 2012

Birdlimes are adhesive entangling compounds that passively capture birds by binding them to a substrate and rendering flight feathers useless. We investigated birdlime use among indigenous Chin hunters during a wildlife survey of Natma Taung National Park (NTNP) in western Myanmar (May-June 2011). We found that birdlime is prepared from the sap of various banyan trees (Ficus spp.) collected during the annual dry season (December-May). Birdlime is prepared by boiling sap to remove water, and the finished product is a readily malleable and extremely adhesive compound known locally as nghet phan te kaw ("bird glue"). Hunters employ four principal strategies when using birdlime: 1) limed sticks are placed at waterholes and springs; 2) limed sticks are placed in fruiting trees or nocturnal roost sites; 3) limed sticks are positioned at prominent vantage points and hunters mimic vocalizations to atiract birds; 4) small insects (possibly termites) are affixed to a limed pole and serve as bait to atiract birds. Large numbers (200) of birds can reportedly be captured during a single day by hunters using birdlime. At least 186 (63.9%) of 291 species of birds occurring in Natma Taung National Park are thought to be vulnerable to this nontiselective hunting strategy. The endangered white-browed nuthatch (Si-a victoriae Rippon Sitidae), a poorlytistudied endemic species restricted to high elevation Oak-Rhododendron forest in NTNP, is vulnerable to birdliming, although the impact of hunting on populations remains unclear. We recommend that future investigations determine the sustainability of the Chin bird harvest by relating hunter off-take to recruitment and survivorship of nuthatches. If conservation action is deemed prudent, management plans should be developed in close collaboration with local Chin communities. © 2012 Society of Ethnobiology.

Mali I.,Texas State University | Vandewege M.W.,Mississippi State University | Davis S.K.,Turtle Survival Alliance | Forstner M.R.J.,Texas State University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Unregulated commercial harvest remains a major threat for turtles across the globe. Due to continuing demand from Asian markets, a significant number of turtles are exported from the United States of America (US). Beginning in 2007, several southeastern states in the US implemented restrictions on the commercial harvest of turtles, in order to address the unsustainable take. We have summarized freshwater turtle exports from the US between 2002 and 2012 and demonstrated that the magnitude of turtle exports from the US remained high although the exports decreased throughout the decade. Louisiana and California were the major exporters. The majority of exports were captive bred, and from two genera, Pseudemys and Trachemys. We review the changes over the decade and speculate that the increase in export of wild turtles out of Louisiana after 2007 could be a consequence of strict regulations in surrounding states (e.g., Alabama, Florida). We suggest that if wild turtle protection is a goal for conservation efforts, then these states should work together to develop comprehensive regulation reforms pertaining to the harvest of wild turtles. © 2014 Mali et al.

Piatt S.G.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Ko W.K.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Platt K.,Turtle Survival Alliance | Myo K.M.,Wildlife Conservation Society | And 2 more authors.
Hamadryad | Year: 2012

We conducted a baseline species inventory and assessed the conservation status of chelonians inhabiting Natma Taung National Park (NTNP) and surrounding areas of the southern Chin Hills, Myanmar during May-June 2011. We verified the occurrence of Indotestudo elongata, Cyclemys fusca, and Amyda cartilaginea in the park. Shells of Heosemys depressa confiscated from wildlife traders near NTNP are thought to have originated from northern Rakhine State, but contrary to our earlier predictions we found nothing to indicate this species occurs in the southern Chin Hills. Indotestudo elongata and C. fusca are subject to widespread subsistence harvest at levels that are probably unsustainable, at least in populated areas. However, there seems to be little commercial harvest of either species, possibly due to the high cost of transporting turtles to distant markets and the fact that agriculture yields a much greater financial return. In contrast, Amyda cartilaginea populations in the southern Chin Hills have been decimated by a continuing commercial harvest. Copyright © 2010 Centre for Herpetology, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust.

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