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Green Sea Turtles Die on Farm – Do Meat-Trade Turtles Aid Conservation?

Green Sea TurtleHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  An accident that caused the deaths of 299 endangered Green Turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm has raised concerns about the facility’s operation. The incident brought other issues to my mind as well.  I was first inspired by the legendary herpetologist Archie Carr, and have since been involved in several field studies of Green, Leatherback and other marine turtles (please see article below).  I see the value in organizations such as Cayman Turtle Farm, which raises turtles for the food market while also racking up important “firsts” in breeding and research.  However, many disagree with me.  What’s your opinion?  Any comments you may wish to post below would be much appreciated.

Conservation through Commercialization

Whatever your personal feelings concerning the consumption of turtles or other animals may be, it is clear that commercial farming can play a role in Chinese Softshellconservation. The classic US example is the American Alligator.  Legal protections helped, of course, but large scale breeding for the meat and hide trade made a huge difference in that species’ future.  Read More »

Reptile & Amphibian Conservation – Protection Sought for 53 US Natives

San Bernardino Ringneck SnakeHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’ve recently posted information concerning a petition that seeks Endangered Species Act protection for 53 US herps.  Many readers applauded the news, but some were concerned about potential limitations on their ability to keep protected species.  As they correctly pointed out, responsible pet owners have made important contributions to the conservation of many species (please see article below).  In the course of my work as a zoologist, I’ve often dealt with federal, state and international permits, and continue to assist zoos with related issues.  Today I’d like to explain a bit more about this proposal, which was championed by the Center for Biological Diversity, and how it may impact target species in the wild and captivity.

The ESA: Pros and Cons for Herp Keepers

Although federal red tape complicates life for private herp owners, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) remains our nation’s most powerful conservation tool.  A recent study revealed that the ESA is 99% effective in preventing extinctions…once a species is listed, its survival is almost guaranteed.  Benefits to such species extend beyond permit requirements – habitat protection, research funds, compilation of recovery plans and other possibilities arise.  This post lists frequently asked questions concerning the ESA. Read More »

Turtle Conservation Update, with a Focus on the USA’s Native Species

Diamondback TerrapinsHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Eleven years ago, I traveled to Florida to assist folks from the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society and other groups in rehabilitating thousands of turtles seized in southern China (please see this article for details).  The event marked my introduction to what is now known as the “Asian Turtle Crisis”. Sadly, the situation remains dismal today.  Recent studies show that turtles in the USA also face an extinction crisis.  Yet the scale of the problem is largely unappreciated…for example, many conservation-minded people would be surprised to learn that over 12 million turtles were exported from the USA in the last 5 years (please see article below).

Year of the Turtle

2011 was designated as “The Year of the Turtle” by the Partnership for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) and affiliated groups.  Happily, North American species seemed to get a bit more attention than usual.  A recent article in Herpetological Review (2011: 42(2) 199-204) provided a comprehensive – if chilling – summary of the turtle-related concerns that PARC and others have been focusing on.  The very informative article is not available online, so I’d like to highlight some key points here. Read More »

Giant Turtles – Working with the World’s Largest Freshwater Species

Pygmy Goose JuvenileHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Turtle enthusiasts seem always to remain interested in even the commonest species. I’ve worked with world-renowned herpetologists who keep Sliders and private breeders who care for 2,000+ turtles (not a misprint!) yet find a place for Common Snappers.  I’m the same way…as I write, I’m watched by a Stinkpot that I acquired in 1969.  Yet there’s no denying the allure of 4 foot-long Giant Softshells, 200+ lb. Alligator Snappers, massive Painted River Terrapins and other rare giants like the turtle I’m holding in this photo (a Mata Mata rescued from a food market; the largest I’ve seen, perhaps a record). Today I’d like to share some experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have had with these and others. Don’t miss the chance to visit collections housing these amazing creatures; volunteer opportunities with field research programs are also sometimes available.

In 1985, while a reptile keeper at the Bronx Zoo, the opening of a 77,000 gallon Asian river exhibit (at Jungle World), allowed us to work with large turtles on a grand scale. Another unique opportunity came in 1997, with the seizure of nearly 10,000 turtles in Guangzhou, China. Many were sent to the USA, where I and others helped to place them in private and public collections.  Read More »

12 Million Turtles Exported from USA in 5 Years – Here’s How to Help

Ringed map turtleHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  The plight of the USA’s freshwater turtles has taken a back stage to what has been labeled the Asian Turtle Crisis (a tragic situation, please see below)However, a full-blown crisis is in progress here as well.  In the past 5 years, over 12 million wild caught freshwater turtles were sent from the USA to food and pet markets abroad, while untold numbers were sold in-country.  Fortunately, you can make a real difference in their future by taking one simple step.  Please read on to learn how to take action to support CITES (Committee on International Trade in Endangered Species) protection for the USA’s freshwater turtles.

US Turtle Diversity and Conservation

It comes as a surprise to many people that the USA is home to more species of freshwater turtles than any other country.  Unfortunately, several of the states that support the greatest diversity and largest turtle populations offer little or no protection, despite strong evidence that many species are in sharp decline.  Food markets in China and Southeast Asia are the main importers of US turtles, but rarer varieties wind up in the pet trade the world over. Read More »

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