Confiscated turtles recover at Whipsnade
Monday 8 July 2002
After several months of hard work by the keepers and veterinary staff at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, most of the rare freshwater turtles confiscated in Hong Kong at the end of last year, and brought to Whipsnade, have made a full recovery
Originally, 10,000 turtles, intended for human consumption, were seized in Hong Kong on the 11 December 2001. There had never been a seizure on this scale before, and the trade value of the turtles was estimated at approximately $3.2million. Zoos and aquaria world-wide stepped in to help house the confiscated turtles and nineteen of the turtles were brought to Whipsnade in January 2002.
The turtles comprised three different species - 9 spiny terrapins, 6 black swamp terrapins, and 4 giant Asian pond terrapins. The spiny terrapins are listed as endangered by the IUCN red list of threatened species, and the black marsh and giant Asian pond terrapins are both listed as vulnerable.
Edmund Flach, Veterinary Officer at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, said "When they were first confiscated, the turtles had not been fed or watered for a number of weeks so most were in a very poor condition. When they arrived at Whipsnade, we had to spend several weeks re-hydrating them and feeding them liquidised food through a tube, as many were too weak to feed themselves."
"Despite great efforts, we lost two of the black swamp terrapins and three of the spiny terrapins," continued Flach, "The remaining fourteen, however, all seem to be feeding well and have all put on weight - especially the giant Asian pond terrapins. They all seem well and truly on the road to recovery, so, overall, we're really pleased as the long hours seem to have paid off."
The black swamp terrapins are carnivores, so have been fed liquidised fish and meat, including cat food. The giant Asian pond terrapins and the spiny terrapins are not carnivorous, and have been fed on babyfood and liquidised fruit and vegetables.
Heather Hall, Curator of Lower Vertebrates for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), who co-ordinated the UK zoo effort to house the turtles at the beginning of the year, said "We're delighted with the progress of the rescued turtles at Whipsnade. They are part of the international breeding programmes jointly managed by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and will be invaluable to continued conservation efforts for these species."
"The Asian freshwater turtle trade is a massive issue - huge numbers are taken from the wild and traded for human consumption each year. The trade is increasing, and consequently many of these species face imminent extinction - so as well as rescuing these turtles, this is also a great opportunity to highlight this major conservation issue and the efforts being taken by UK Zoos."
See the Press Release list for the original press release, 'UK Zoos go to Rescue of Confiscated Turtles' dated 18/01/02.
For further information/photography please contact:
The Zoological Society of London's PR Office:
Peter Beatty: 020 7449 6361
Debbie Curtis: 020 7449 6363 (Mobile: 07889 043843)
Joe Laing: 020 7449 6236
Notes to Editors:
- Whipsnade Wild Animal Park is part of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a worldwide conservation, scientific and educational charity
- Black swamp terrapins are also known as black marsh terrapins
- Spiny terrapins are also known as 'cogwheel' or 'sunburst' terrapins.
- The different turtle species could not be returned to the wild since their geographical origin was unknown.
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