New Ark paves way for turtle conservation
Thursday 2 March 2006
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park welcomes an internationally important collection of freshwater turtles to the UK
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park is launching a purpose-built breeding facility for a collection of 18 critically endangered South East Asian freshwater turtles.
Known as the Turtle Ark, the breeding facility aims to maintain and breed these critically endangered species in order to help build international genetically viable colonies that may one day be used for reintroduction should the wild populations become extinct.
The six turtle species now residing at the Turtle Ark represent some of the most highly threatened animals in the world and are also very rare in captivity. For one species, McCord’s box turtle, Whipsnade’s animals are the only ones in a UK zoo, whilst the other five are only held at one other UK zoo.
ZSL’s Curator of Herpetology, Richard Gibson said, “The collection at Whipsnade includes a turtle species previously only known from Chinese food markets and never seen in the wild by biologists. Its exact origin and natural habitat are unknown and its disappearance from food markets suggests it may now be extinct in the wild. More than 10 million turtles are consumed and used in traditional medicine every year in China. This is why the conservation status of these species is so critical.”
These six species at Whipsnade, and many others, have been prioritised for captive breeding work by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and ShellShock, an international campaign launched by European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) to save the world’s most threatened turtles and tortoises. ShellShock promotes public awareness about the threats facing these animals, encourages zoos and aquariums to dedicate space to them in their collections and raises money to support field conservation and research initiatives. One such initiative is a new ZSL project in Nepal to help conserve the tortoises and freshwater turtles of the southern lowlands.
These new breeding facilities in the Discovery Centre at Whipsnade, together with the Nepal field conservation programme, demonstrate the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL), growing commitment to endangered tortoises and turtles worldwide.
— ENDS —
Notes to editors
The Turtle Ark at Whipsnade is part of an internationally co-ordinated turtle assurance colony programme called the Turtle Survival Alliance.
The Turtle Survival Alliance, administered by the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist group, has been developed in response to the threat to wild tortoise and turtle populations.
Reintroduction will only occur when the current threats to the wild populations are removed.
Joanna Green - 020 7449 6236 - firstname.lastname@example.org