Hope for a Species

Spiny turtle baby, Durrell WildlifeBBC Life — A baby spiny turtle has hatched at the Durrell Conservation Trust in Jersey. It is the first ever spiny turtle to be bred in captivity in Europe – and only the second in the whole world. Spiny turtles, which live in southeast Asia, are extremely threatened in the wild because of habitat loss, hunting and the international pet trade. But the new arrival in Jersey has given conservationists fresh hope that a captive breeding programme might haul the species back from the brink. “Breeding these rare turtles here allows us to study and learn about their breeding ecology and what makes these beautiful, yet complex, animals tick,” said Gerardo Garcia of Durrell Wildlife. “This kind of information can prove invaluable for conservation action in the wild.” The diminutive spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa), which grows to no more than nine inches (22.9 cm) in length, has been causing concern since it was upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List. Their natural range is through southern Burma, southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and several Indonesian islands. But human activity is weakening the species’ grip in the wild. In an attempt to divert their almost inevitable slide into extinction, scientists are developing a coordinated protection programme. Prior to the new spiny turtle hatching in Jersey, the only successful captive birth and rearing of one of these creatures was in Atlanta Zoo, US, in 1992. (12/24/04)
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