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A tough shell is the trademark characteristic of turtles, but they remain vulnerable to conservation threats in almost every habitat they occupy. As World Turtle Day approaches this May 23, raising awareness and support for turtle conservation is a fitting way to celebrate our shelled friends and help secure their future in the wild.

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Around since prehistoric times, turtles and tortoises may seem untouchable, but over half the world’s species are threatened with extinction. This sobering statistic is of elevated concern in Asia, which is home to 1/3 of all freshwater turtle species. 80% of these species are under threat by the unsustainable trade for food and traditional medicine.

Your Zoo’s efforts in Asian turtle conservation began in Vietnam in 2001 with the establishment of the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) and continue to develop and expand in exciting and meaningful ways. Head Veterinarian Dr. Mike Selig has traveled to Vietnam twice to assist with procedures, train veterinary staff, and deliver supplies to our partners. These capacity building activities equip the ATP team to manage the large volume of turtle rescues they receive and to perform higher skill procedures when needed.

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The outlook for freshwater turtles may seem discouraging, but your Zoo’s turtle conservation program has seen inspiring successes within the last year:

  • Nearly 200 endangered turtles were rescued and released back into the wild in four protected areas in Vietnam.
  • 25 nature reserve and forestry department officers in Vietnam were trained in identification of endangered and protected turtle species and techniques to rescue and care for confiscated turtles.
  • University students, park rangers and young biologists participated in the 16thAnnual Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Field Skills Training Course at the Turtle Conservation Centre, learning in both classroom and field to be part of the solution to the Asian Turtle crisis.
  • The existence of a second individual Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) in the wild was verified. This increased the number of known living individuals to four, with two in human care and two in the wild.

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What can you do to be part of Asian turtles’ conservation success story?

  • Be a responsible consumer. Never buy wildlife or products made from wildlife or their parts and avoid vendors that sell them. Learn more at #BuyInformed.
  • Be a voice for turtles! Share your knowledge of turtles and the threats they face in the wild and help spread awareness in your community to encourage everyone to make responsible purchasing decisions.
  • Donate to support your Zoo’s efforts in Asian turtle conservation. This program does a lot with a little, and every contribution helps.

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