More than half of Asia’s 89 turtle species are endangered or threatened as a result of the unsustainable turtle trade in the region. Tons of turtles are poached from across Asia daily for sale in food markets and for traditional medicine. The aim of the Zoo’s Asian Turtle Program (ATP) is to establish a safe and sustainable future for Asian turtles by implementing strategic interventions that directly contribute to the conservation of Asian turtles. Activities in Vietnam focus on six critically endangered and endemic species, including the legendary Swinhoe’s or Yangtze Soft-shell turtle in northern Vietnam, largely recognized as the most endangered turtle species in the world. The ATP also carries out education and public awareness efforts, training for wildlife protection officers and rangers, and student training and internship programs. The ATP also manages the Asian Turtle Conservation Network, provides support for the rescue and management of turtles confiscated from the wildlife trade, and works closely with Education for Nature – Vietnam on turtle protection and addressing the Asian turtle trade.
Large-scale illegal collecting for Asian markets and habitat loss threaten India’s turtles, and nearly 60 percent of the 28 native turtle species are now in danger of extinction.The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) Indian Turtle Conservation Program (ITCP) is working to save freshwater turtles and tortoises through the protection of turtle populations and habitats, conservation education and awareness efforts and building local conservation capacity. The ITCP manages turtle head-starting facilities and riverside hatcheries to help bolster regional turtle populations. With the environment in mind, these facilities have been developed with model “green” practices, including bio-filtration and solar/wind driven pumping systems that maximize energy and water use. Thousands of people visit the ITCP Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and Chambal Conservation Centre annually. Onsite and outreach education and training programs create awareness about the conservation of India’s threatened freshwater turtles as well as other aquatic wildlife and habitats. strong>
Sea turtle are found in all the world’s oceans except the arctic. Six of the eight species are endangered due to the large scale harvesting of adults and eggs, habitat loss, pollution and marine debris (such as plastic and fishing nets) and coastal development. The Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) partner CICTMAR conducts sea turtle research and conservation in Venezuela’s Paria Peninsula and links these efforts to better livelihoods for coastal inhabitants. In addition to sea turtle monitoring, the project actively protects two of the most important nesting areas for the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle. Through community-based efforts, more than 500 nests are protected and monitored each year and more than 80,000 leatherback and other sea turtle hatchlings have been released to date. Field work on the beaches has significantly reduced poaching of turtle eggs and promotes environmental awareness among local community members, who also participate in sea turtle research and conservation efforts. Conservation education efforts increase local conservation capacity and reach thousands of people, including children, fishermen and local authorities.