Conservation Alliance Rescues 7,500 Confiscated Turtles

Conservation International
Friday, 11 January 2002

CI to Support Efforts Through Online Giving

Conservation International today announced it will further support the recent rescue of nearly 7,500 critically endangered turtles, with an online fundraising drive.

As part of CI's hands-on involvement in protecting these endangered species, a portion of the online gifts* received through www.conservation.org between January 12 - 31 will be committed to this unprecedented turtle rescue and the Turtle Survival Alliance.

Kurt Buhlmann (Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservation International) and Rick Hudson (Fort Worth Zoo Conservation Biologist), who are co-chairs of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), rapidly responded to the turtles' plight when they learned that the turtles were confiscated in Hong Kong on December 11, 2001.

Destined for the illegal food trade, the shipment of turtles, valued at $3.2 million, was in route to China when intercepted by Hong Kong customs. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), it is illegal to import or export endangered species without proper permits.

The shipment, the largest seizure of live turtles in Hong Kong, was transported to Kadoorie Farms Botanic Gardens, Hong Kong, for identification and initial triage.

Three shipments of turtles have already been brought to Miami for a total of 1144 turtles rescued. On Saturday, January 11th, a fourth shipment comprised of 2,700 more turtles is expected to arrive in Miami. All turtles have been taken from Miami to Alapattah Flats Turtle Preserve

At the Turtle Preserve, volunteers will rehabilitate the animals, build and maintain a centralized database on all individuals and find appropriate homes. Each turtle requires a medical assessment and data collection (weighing, measuring, drawing blood, sexing and marking each specimen). Zoos, universities and private breeders will be sought out to provide these turtles with new homes.

"Currently, seized turtles are simply destroyed because there is no place for them, and they are already sick or injured," said Hudson. "In need of intensive veterinary treatment, the turtles can't be released back into the wild."

"Before the creation of the TSA, confiscated turtles were disposed of in an effort to curb illegal harvesting. The TSA provides an ideal option, which channels these turtles into captive programs where they can be rehabilitated and managed long-term. It's a win-win situation for all involved, especially the turtles." The TSA is a 130-member conservation alliance.

For more information, or to contact Conservation International, see their website at: www.conservation.org

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