Rare mangrove terrapin re-discovered in Thailand


Mangrove terrapin

From WWF:

10 Jan 2007

TaKua Tung, Thailand – A local villager fishing in a mangrove in western Thailand got a surprise when he caught in his net a large turtle.

The catch turned out to be a rare mangrove terrapin, a species that has not been observed in the wild in Thailand for over 20 years.

Realizing that this was an unusual find, the village contacted a local specialist from WWF Thailand’s Marine and Coastal Resources Unit, based in the coastal province of Phang Nga, some 800km from the capital, Bangkok. …

Mangrove terrapins (Batagur baska) are one of Asia’s largest freshwater turtles.

They live in creeks and estuaries on the Andaman coast, from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia to as far as Sumatra in Indonesia, as well as in the South China Sea in the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Mangrove terrapins feed on the seed pods of mangrove and other coastal trees. Smaller terrapins also eat shrimp and crabs.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 18, 2012) — The Wildlife Conservation Society, in conjunction with the Cambodian Fisheries Administration and Wildlife Reserves Singapore, just announced the successful release of a Southern River terrapin (Batagur affinis) — one of the most endangered turtles on earth — into the Sre Ambel River in Cambodia. The turtle was released on January 16th at a ceremony attended by officials, conservationists, and local people: here.

Chinese turtles: here.

Red-eared terrapins in London: here.

ScienceDaily (Sep. 22, 2009) — University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) researchers exploring strategies for conserving the Diamondback Terrapin along Alabama’s Dauphin Island coastline are working to keep the once-celebrated turtle off the endangered species list: here.

Diamondback terrapins as by-catch: here.

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2 thoughts on “Rare mangrove terrapin re-discovered in Thailand

  1. Tue Mar 13, 2007

    By Jon Hurdle

    PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – The diamondback terrapin, a turtle species that lives on the U.S. east coast, is under siege from Asian gourmets and American developers, but now officials and lawmakers are coming to its rescue.

    Scientists in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources this week proposed to ban capturing the reptile from the Chesapeake Bay, where thousands are snatched every year destined for China and other Asian countries where they are commonly made into soup.

    The moratorium, expected to take effect from June 18, would ban the terrapin harvest indefinitely and help to reverse a predicted continuing decline in its population, said officials.

    Separately, Maryland lawmakers are also debating two bills that would also ban capturing the species, whose shell grows up to nine inches in length.

    Around 11,000 terrapins were trapped in 2006 compared with 4,000 in the previous three years, but the real numbers are believed to be higher, said Gina Hunt, assistant director of the Fisheries Service in Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.

    The species, which is named for the diamond pattern on top of its shell, is sensitive to small mortality increases because it takes between eight and 13 years for them to reach sexual maturity, and they only lay around 40 eggs a year, said Willem Roosenburg, a biology professor at Ohio University.

    But the moratorium alone will not ensure the turtle’s future, Hunt said.

  2. Zoo hatches rare turtle egg
    Arakan forest turtle once thought to be extinct

    By MARK DAVIS
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    Published on: 05/01/07

    To turtle enthusiasts, the Arakan forest turtle occupies an exalted spot. The last documented sighting of one took place in 1908 in the Arakan forest of Myanmar, the turtles’ sole natural habitat.

    Heosemys depressa, biologists agreed, was as extinct as the dinosaurs with which it once shared space.

    LOUIE FAVORITE/Staff
    (ENLARGE)
    This Arakan forest turtle at Zoo Atlanta was hatched on April 25 and was displayed for media for the first time on Tuesday.

    (ENLARGE)
    Dr. Joe Mendelson, Zoo Atlanta curator of herpetology, takes the lid off an incubator containing turtle eggs at Zoo Atlanta on Tuesday. This incubator contains three turtle eggs, including an Arakan forest turtle that should hatch in next couple of weeks.

    Then, in the 1990s, scientists prowling a Chinese food market made a stunning find — several live Arakan forest turtles. They snapped them up immediately.

    In 2001, two Arakans came to Zoo Atlanta. Last week, they produced a hatchling, and the zoo pulled back the curtains on its tiny crawler on Tuesday.

    Joseph R. Mendelson III, the zoo’s curator of herpetology, grinned at the dark-brown creature, small enough to fit neatly in a serving spoon.

    Serving spoon? It’s an apt description.

    “They’re being eaten right into extinction,” he said. The turtles are hunted for food and medicinal purposes. “We have something to celebrate, to tell you the truth.”

    To the untrained eye, the Arakan turtle is just another reptile with a built-in roof. Adults are about the size and color of a well-worn baseball glove. They have claws like roof tacks. Their eyes are blacker than new asphalt.

    They’re also a reminder of a much earlier time, Mendelson said. When dinosaurs came howling onto the scene, the turtles were already here. When man first walked the earth, turtles watched them pass.

    “To lose a distinct species that has been on the planet for millions of years would be a permanent and irreversible loss,” Mendelson said.

    Scientists don’t know much about the Arakan turtles, mostly because they’ve only been studying them for about 10 years. Twelve live in America — eight at zoos in Miami, St. Louis and Columbia, S.C., and four at Zoo Atlanta, the only U.S. facility to breed them successfully.

    In addition to its adults and hatchling, Zoo Atlanta’s inventory includes a juvenile, born in 2005. The 2-year-old turtle, now about the size of a softball, spends his days crawling about an exhibit with a surly next-door neighbor, an alligator snapping turtle.

    The adults also produced two eggs in 2006, but neither survived. This latest turtle popped out on April 25. Another egg, slightly larger than a hen’s, is expected to hatch in about three weeks.

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