Sad news from The Turtle Survival Alliance. It’s been confirmed that one of the four remaining Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtles (Rafetus swinhoei) has died. Details are incoming but the cause of death is likely due to pollution in the lake he lived in.  This leaves the only known members of the species one in a protected lake in Vietnam and a male-female pair living in a zoo in China. 

Via the Turtle Survival Alliance facebook page

The Turtle Survival Alliance has confirmed that one of the world’s four known remaining Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtles (Rafetus swinhoei), has died in Vietnam. This turtle – believed to be a male – was highly revered in Vietnam and was a long-time occupant of Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of downtown Hanoi. Sightings of the turtle attracted large crowds, as well as visitors from around the world. This turtle made global news back in 2011 when health concerns prompted officials to capture the turtle for medical treatment and mount a massive cleanup effort for the polluted lake.

The death of this Rafetus reduces the known number of living animals to three: one in a protected lake in Vietnam and a pair at the Suzhou Zoo in China. Since 2008, this pair has been the subject of intensive efforts to encourage them to reproduce in captivity as a last ditch effort to save the species, currently recognized as the most endangered turtle in the world.

We will bring you more information as this story develops….

A mystery disease has all but wiped out the Bellinger river snapping turtle. 

(Source: The Gaurdian.com)

A species of turtle has been pushed to the brink of extinction over the course of just one month after a mystery disease swept through its habitat in New South Wales, with alarmed scientists pinning hopes on a small band of survivors.

The Bellinger river snapping turtle, a species previously considered to be under no threat, has been virtually wiped out by a disease that causes them to become lethargic and then develop lesions on the eyes and throughout the body.

The turtle, only found in its eponymous river on the mid-north coast of NSW, is considered endearing by many conservationists because its face is set in a permanent grin.

But the jocular visages of the little creatures belie the serious threat the species now faces, prompting scientists from Australia and overseas to search for a reason for its sudden decline.

Dead turtles were first spotted beside the river by canoeists. Since then, more than 400 dead turtles have been recovered, with many others dying within a few days of being rounded up.

The disease cannot be treated, has a 100% mortality rate and has taken hold in 90% of the turtle’s habitat, raising fears that the animal may become extinct.

“There’s a real possibility they’ll become extinct, which is a tragedy really,” Dr Ricky Spencer, a zoologist at the University of Western Sydney, said.

“For this to occur over the period of a month is very alarming. It’s a mystery event never seen in Australia before. It may take years before we find out what’s happened here.

“What we do know is that it kills and it kills rapidly. Within a month, the turtles have gone from not threatened to endangered or critically endangered. The problem is that they only exist in the Bellinger river and nowhere else in the world, so a population crash here means extinction.”

Spencer has been working with the NSW office of environment and heritage, Taronga Zoo and the NSW national parks and wildlife service, as well as overseas scientists, to tackle the problem.

The team believe the turtles may have been attacked by a number of diseases after becoming vulnerable from a lack of food, but there is no established theory for the decline as yet.

A total of 17 healthy turtles have been taken into captivity, with scientists hoping that a successful breeding program will be able to bring them back from the brink.

“The captive breeding program will be very important,” Spencer said. “Hopefully the hatchlings will breed and we can release them back into a healthy part of the river at some point.”

The alarming decline, revealed on what is world turtle day, is the latest woe faced by a freshwater turtle species. According to the IUCN, 62% of the world’s freshwater turtle species are either threatened or endangered.

Freshwater turtles are considered crucial to the health of river ecosystems because they eat dead and decaying matter and help recycle nutrients.

Turtles and Tortoises at risk due to Climate Change

“It’s not only the Aldabra which is at risk,” said David Rowat from the Seychelles marine conservation society, which heads up a programme to tag and monitor critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles on Mahe Island’s beaches.

“Hawksbills have always been hunted for their shell to make tortoiseshell jewellery. Their numbers are low but we have the fifth largest population in the world here, and it’s imperative we act to protect them,” he said.

Changes in temperature play havoc with breeding patterns because the Hawksbills, which live in tropical coral reefs and have prominent hooked beaks, tend to produce only females if the eggs are left in a very warm nest, he said.

“The warming also means there are violent and more frequent storms. The turtles lay their eggs in the sand, but if you have a bad storm surge, you can lose big tracts of sand and a whole season of nesting turtles,” Rowat said.

“We move the nests we come across to above the high water line on the beach, but even doing that cannot always protect them from a flash surge,” he added.

A significant part of the new funds will go to projects aiming to protect and restore the coral reefs and shore up the coastline against storms.

“The ideas we’re testing include using wooden poles as a barrier to protect the coast and replanting trees to help prevent erosion, as well as attempting to regrow coral or transplant and grow more resilient coral,” Payet said.

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teresafrancis:

. by sarah=lynch

Tortoises are known by the world quite famously for carrying their homes with them. I’ve read all the stories and seen all the movies and have happily bought into the ide a that they are wise sages and should not be underestimated just because of their speed.

Because they always manage to get there in the end, regardless of how slow.

Galápagos tortoises are known for their massive size, weighing just over 400 kilogrames and lengths of 5.9 feet. They were thought to be extinct 150 years ago, until recently, when researchers found  evidence that may mean some are still alive. A Yale University team found hybrid tortoises on Isabela, an island, some as young as 15 years of age, which means their parents are around, somewhere.

This is pretty incredible considering finding them would mean these gorgeous species have managed to live under the radar for a pretty long time.

The different shapes of the giant tortoises on the various Galapagos islands was one of the vital evidences needed by Charles Darwin to piece together his groundbreaking theory of evolution, but human exploitation led to their fall in numbers.

Honestly, I hope the tortoises have some time before they’re found. I imagine a life without our greed has bode them well, and to be once again acquainted with the people responsible for the death of their kind cannot and probably will not be a pleasant experience.