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For tortoise, terrapin and turtle care and conservation



The monies which were so generously donated by our members in 2001 were divided between three main activities. Firstly, we worked closely with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey to refurbish and re-equip their tortoise captive breeding facilities to render it suitable to house a collection of one of the critically endangered species of Asian turtles - the Vietnamese Flowerback (Cuora galbinifrons) and to save others of the same species which had been impounded in Holland from an illegal shipment. The staff of the Jersey Herpetological Department worked a minor miracle in bringing these desperately sick creatures back to health so that they now have a viable collection from which they hope to breed in the coming years. A plaque was made and put up to record the BCG's proud involvement. Secondly, the BCG paid for Mr Vinh a Vietnamese turtle specialist, to be flown to Jersey and undertake one of their fine Conservation Training courses and to meet some of the successful breeders of Asian turtles in Europe. Mr Vinh has carried this expertise back to Vietnam where he is currently working at the Cue Phuong rescue and breeding centre as well as teaching other Vietnamese turtle researchers at a university there. Thirdly, we made a donation towards the construction of the International Centre for the Conservation of Turtles located at Munster Zoo to help develop their facilities for the breeding of some of the critically endangered species of turtle that are housed there. Both your Chairman and I have been to the ICCT in Munster to view the wonderful work that is undertaken there under the expert direction of Elmar Meier - a most talented chelonia expert and caring conservationist who has learned to provide exactly the right conditions for these rare reptiles to breed in captivity.

The critically endangered Sulawest Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwondi) from Indonesia

The critically endangered Sulawesi Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwondi) from Indonesia


So critical had the situation become in 2001 (it was recognised that within 20 or 30 years most of Asia's turtles except for isolated pockets, would have disappeared for all time) that a Turtle Conservation Workshop was convened at Fort Worth Zoo in the USA. Chelonia experts from zoos, conservationists, collectors, both government and non-government organisations' representatives gathered to consider how best to stem this tide of destruction. They set up the worldwide Turtle Survival Alliance with the aim of saving as many of the endangered species of turtle as possible and have appealed for over five million US dollars over the next few years to support turtle conservation measures all over the world but particularly in Asia. The task is huge but their enthusiasm is great and already they have begun to make their influence count. They have encouraged China to restrict the trade in turtles with Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia: they are organising "Colonies of Assurance" of small groups of endangered turtles where they can be bred and returned one day to their natural habitat (the Ark Principle). The TSA is waging a publicity campaign to alert the world's media of the dire danger confronting turtles and the BCG is playing its part in that campaign.

The Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) from South Myanmar

The Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) from South Myanmar


As those of you who have followed my Conservation Appeals over the years know, I try to select chelonia conservation causes where it is possible for us to measure progress visibly in the way our funds are being spent. To this end I, together with your Committee, am currently involved in considering a number of schemes which we think in principle may be worthy of BCG support but where we need to complete details to our satisfaction. One concerns a river turtle in Burma (Myanmar) once thought to be extinct but where there is now a chance that sufficient numbers may have survived to bring together a breeding population in that country: another is the development of the Cuc Phuong Turtle Conservation Project in Vietnam to accept more critically endangered turtle species while a third aims to set up a turtle rescue and captive breeding centre in Cambodia. All these projects are in desperate need of funds - far more than the BCG can furnish on its own - but in conjunction with others we can make a significant contribution. The more you give the more the BCG can do to support these projects. To help inspire you to save some of these precious animals, the BCG Committee have agreed to splash out with some photos in colour to illustrate some of the critically endangered Asian turtles in this Newsletter. I am most indebted to Rick Hudson of Fort Worth Zoo and one of the founders of the T SA for helping me to gather together these illustrations. I trust the sight of these turtles will make you appreciate how necessary it is that the world should not be deprived of these creatures. You can make a donation when you renew your membership by adding the amount you wish to donate to the form or you can send a separate donation by cheque to the Membership Secretary BCG, P.O. Box 1460, Bedworth, CV12 9ZR. Please make cheques out to "The British Chelonia Group" and specify that you desire the money to go to the 2004 Asian Turtle Appeal. I will keep you informed of the cause or causes we support and the progress being made. Thank you.

email: Conservation Officer

Article from Newsletter 158




When I launched the appeal on behalf of the endangered tortoises and terrapins of Asia in the Nov/Dec 2003 Newsletter I promised to let you know which suitable project would be the beneficiary of the moneys you were donating. It has taken some months to settle on a really worthwhile scheme which will have a useful impact to save some of the endangered species. This time the BCG is going to work with the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) in the south of India and I am greatly indebted to Rick Hudson of the Fort Worth Zoo, Texas and one of the principal founders of the Turtle Survival Alliance and to Harry Andrews, the Director of the MCBT who have both endured weeks of questioning from me to ensure that the BCG gets the greatest possible value for the monies we shall make available to the MCBT Perhaps I should explain in some detail the background to this project.


The MCBT was founded in 1976 as a Centre for Herpetology by Romulus Whitaker, a most distinguished herpetologist. The aim of the Centre is to conserve crocodiles and to establish a programme for the conservation and propagation of other species of endangered reptiles including turtles. It has had an immense impact as a crocodile breeding centre over the years and since 1979 over 1500 crocodiles of various species have been supplied to various Indian State Departments for restocking programmes in the wild and it has also set up breeding facilities in other Indian States and neighbouring countries. It has started sea turtle surveys and a conservation programme for them in India, including a sea turtle hatchery. Currently it is home to 2800 crocodiles of 14 species and about 400,000 visitors come each year to view its extensive area and facilities.


So how can the MCBT help the endangered Asian turtle species? First of all the MCBT has had limited success with the breeding of a number of India's freshwater turtles and with moderate assistance can use this experience to do so much more. Currently they have a collection of 300 turtles, representing 20 of 33 different Indian species. The Centre has bred several of these species and has already carried out much research including egg incubation studies. Besides having this most useful basis of information and experience in the breeding of turtles to hand, they have most importantly another great asset - room to expand their turtle enclosures, holding and breeding pens. Some of this room derives from now-disused crocodile breeding enclosures. There are 37 separate crocodile rearing units contained in the Centre varying in size from 3 x 3 metres to 5 x 15 metres, all with concrete retaining walls, individual ponds and nicely planted. The MCBT is willing to dedicate these outdoor units to turtle breeding for some of the endangered Asian species and begin a headstarting programme but most of these enclosures require enhancement and adaptation to suit the turtles -and this is where the BCG will become involved.


The Asian Turtle Project at the MCBT is going to cost about £30,000 and will take 5 years to complete. Besides improving existing enclosures and constructing new ones, two suitable PhD students will be employed whose full-time occupation will be dedicated to turtle conservation in India. They will conduct turtle surveys, liase with other turtle conservationists in India and produce educational programmes about turtles in special areas. They will also cooperate with other zoos and herpetological institutions in India. The project budget also includes the production of educational material and a turtle guidebook. The endangered species to be cared for at the MCBT include: Kachuga kachuga (Red Crowned Roof Turtle) and the Batagur baska (Indian River Terrapin) - both categorised as Critically Endangered in the current IUCN Red Book; Chitra indica (Narrow Headed Soft-shelled Turtle) and Pelochelys cantori (Asian Giant Soft-shelled Turtle) both categorised as Endangered species. Some of the species will be managed by the MCBT but incorporated into ongoing satellite facilities in the north of India. The BCG's role in this project is to fund as far as possible the improvement of the existing enclosures and the building of the new enclosures. We aim to raise at least £4.500 and the Turtle Survival Alliance are committed to providing additional funding to rnatch our contribution and they are further committed to raising the additional funding over Years 2 to 5. We are promised that the BCG will receive generous public acknowledgement of our contribution to the scheme at the MCBT


As I have explained so often before, the rapid decline of the Asian turtle species is a catastrophe which has been unfolding before our eyes over the last decade. The MCBT Asian Turtle Project will make a significant contribution to the TSA plan to provide suitable locations all over the world for the conservation, breeding and relocating of these endangered animals. It is this sort of initiative that could provide the template for other such projects in the region. I am delighted that the BCG can become a partner in this scheme and I would urge my readers to help us reach our tar-et of £4,500 as soon as possible. The MCBT needs the money as early as possible to that work can begin this year. You can send donations by cheque to the Membership Secretary BCG, P.O.Box 1460, Bedworth, CV12 9ZR Please make the cheque out to "The British Chelonia Group" and specify that you want the money to go to the 2004 Asian Turtle Appeal. Thank you for all the help you can give and I will keep you up to date with progress of the Appeal and the work at the MCBT

email: Conservation Officer

Article from Newsletter 161



I have recently had some really good news from the Madras CrocodileTrust which is the subject of this year's Conservation Appeal. This year they have successfully bred one of the world's critically endangered river terrapins, the Kachuga kachuga or Indian Red-crowned Roof Turtle. This very rare reptile inhabits the waterways of NE India and Bangladesh.

Nineteen hatchlings are now thriving in the centre's nursery and this is the first time that these turtles have been bred in captivity in India making this a highly significant conservation effort. The prime reasons attributed to this successful programme include excellent habitat conditions, correct feeding regime and the overall environment around the pond where the hatchlings were bred.

In India the distribution of the Kachuga kachuga is restricted to a few areas in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Assam and West Bengal. A species of large rivers, it basks on sandbanks, logs and rocks and is a herbivore, eating leafy matter and fruits. Over the years intensive pressure on its habitat such as changing river courses, fishing and sand mining has destroyed their basking and nesting areas. Poaching for food and trade has further depleted their numbers making them one of the world's most threatened species.

Currently, with the help of the BCG, the MCBT in collaboration with the Forest Department is developing a project for the captive breeding of 17 species of endangered freshwater turtles and tortoises, utilising some disused crocodile ponds. The project aims at assessing the current population of the endangered turtle species, procuring other specimens for captive breeding and restocking programmes, combined with habitat protection and management, that may prove crucial to the survival of the Kachuga kachuga and other endangered species.

The Appeal is going well and already we have passed the £5000 mark in August. The funds that the BCG is contributing to this MCBT programme will go towards the conversion of the ex-crocodile ponds for captive breeding and holding ponds for the endangered species.

You can still send donations by cheque or postal order to the Membership Secretary BCG, P.O.Box 1460, Bedworth, CV 12 9ZR. Please make the cheque out to "The British Chelonia Group" and specify that you want the money to go to the 2004 Asian Turtle Appeal. Thank you for all the help you can give and 1 will keep you up to date with progress of the Appeal and the work at the MCBT.

email: Conservation Officer

Article from Newsletter 169



New Turtle Wetland Enclosure at Cuc Phong funded by the BCG for critically endangered Anam Leaf Turtles.

Our Conservation Officer, Bob Langton reports:

"After the BCG had paid for the conversion of the ex-crocodile ponds in Madras into captive breeding ponds for turtles out of the donations for the 2004 Conservation Appeal, there was a surplus of £1000 approximately. The BCG Committee, well aware of the desperate need for more enclosures at the Cuc Phuong Turtle Conservation Centre in Vietnam, decided to support the costs for another one.

The enclosure has now been completed and a photograph appears below showing its appearance. For those who may be interested, the pool consists of three varying depths; deep end, mud substrate shallows, and gravel inflow area. The water circulates through a pump from the deep end up to the narrow gravel substrate end of the pool where it will flow through grassy vegetation into the shallows. The shallows will be planted with sedges and other aquatic plants in order to enhance water quality. An island in the middle was not built for aesthetic purposes but is necessary for the roof support pole. A cage will surround the entire enclosure in order to ensure that theft is not a problem. The total measurements of the enclosure are a 14 by 8 meter cage around a pool that is 80cm.s deep in the deep end and 40cms deep at the shallow end and about 11. 5 metres in length. Width is up to 7 metres.

Doug Hendrie, the Director of the Turtle Survival Alliance Asian Region, tells me that the plan is to use the enclosure for Annam Leaf Turtles (Mauremys annamensis) a critically endangered Vietnamese endemic species which the TCC has been successfully breeding for some years.

Dough Hendrie sends the great gratitude of the Director and staff of the TCC for the BCG's help in this project"

email: Conservation Officer