UK zoos go to the rescue of confiscated turtles
Friday 18 January 2002
UK zoos have joined together, following an appeal by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), to help with the rescue of 10,000 rare freshwater turtles
The turtles, intended for human consumption, were originally confiscated in Hong Kong on 11 December 2001. There has never been a seizure on this scale before, and the trade value of the turtles is estimated at approximately $3.2million.
The animals, which had not been fed or watered for several weeks, were initially placed in Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Gardens, an animal rescue centre in Hong Kong, but since the animals could not be returned to the wild, a solution for their permanent placement had to be found quickly. TSA requested zoos worldwide to assist in this massive rescue operation and subsequently, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) asked its members to permanently house some of the turtles.
Approximately thirty EAZA zoos in nine European countries offered their assistance and will provide about 1,000 of these turtles with new homes. Sixty-eight of the turtles arrived in Amsterdam on Thursday 17 January 2002, and were transported by road overnight to Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, Bristol Zoo Gardens, Chester Zoo, Chessington Zoo, Tropical World (Leeds) and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Jersey). These sixty-eight turtles are of three different species; giant Asian pond terrapins and black marsh terrapins (both listed as vulnerable by the IUCN red list) and spiny terrapins (otherwise known as 'cogwheel' or 'sunburst' terrapins, listed as endangered by the IUCN red list).
Heather Hall, Curator of Lower Vertebrates at London Zoo, who co-ordinated the UK zoo effort said: "It's been an incredible logistical operation and there has been a fantastic response to this emergency from UK zoos. Situations like this are an increasing problem and concern, and the Asian freshwater turtle trade is a major conservation issue. Hundreds of thousands of these turtles are traded annually for human consumption resulting in at least thirty of these turtle species facing extinction in the wild in the next five years."
Rotterdam Zoo led the European side of the operation to re-house the turtles, and initially assessed the health of the turtles in Hong Kong, to determine those fit for travel to Europe. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines willingly supported this EAZA initiative and transported the turtles free of charge from Hong Kong to the Netherlands. Bristol Zoo Gardens then sent Head Keeper Tim Skelton to Rotterdam to bring back the turtles to the UK before they were finally distributed to their new homes.
Twenty turtles, comprised of three different species, have been housed at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, and safely reached their new home on Friday, 18 January. After a period in quarantine at Whipsnade, they will then be housed there as part of the main animal collection.
Now in UK Zoos, the turtles will join the international breeding programmes jointly managed by the EAZA zoos, and will be invaluable to continued conservation efforts for these species.
A photocall will be held at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park on Friday 18 January at 2.00pm
For interview/photography please contact:
The Zoological Society of London's PR Office:
Debbie Curtis: 020 7449 6363
(Mobile: 07889 043843)
Peter Beatty: 020 7449 6361
Joe Laing: 020 7449 6236
Federation of British Zoos:
Mary Talbot-Rosevear (Director)
Tel: 020 7586 0230
Notes to Editors:
- Whipsnade Wild Animal Park and London Zoo are both integral parts of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a worldwide conservation, scientific and educational charity. For further information, please look on the ZSL website: www.zsl.org
- The UK zoos providing new homes for the turtles are Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, Bristol Zoo Gardens, Chester Zoo, Chessington Zoo, Tropical World (Leeds) and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Jersey)
- Heather Hall at London Zoo co-ordinated the UK zoo effort to find new homes for the turtles
- European countries that are providing new homes for the turtles are the United Kingdom, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain
- The different turtle species could not be returned to the wild since their geographical origin was unknown
- The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) has 280 members in 34 countries. The primary goals of its members are conservation, education, research and recreation. EAZA runs international breeding programmes for 253 species of wild animals to ensure responsible management of their captive populations. For further information, please look on the website: European Association of Zoos and Aquaria
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