Chelonian History IV

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Kapidolo Farms

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Nov 7, 2012
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Yeah, so this is history, but recent past, not decades old as other posts in this subject heading.

I sought to get this published in a paper magazine or journal, but did not meet that bar. As they say, anything can get published on the internet. No grizzly images here.

At 12PM Craig drove me to the Behler Chelonian Center in Ojai. It took about 2 hours and 30 minutes of driving.

May 17th -20th 2008

I learn about feeding turtles and tortoises in captivity. At the Behler Chelonian Center, there were 26 turtle species collected from many countries ranging from the desert of Africa to the tropical area of South East Asian resulting of no natural food for these turtles and tortoises, so they fed them with the food bought in the US. They fed the turtles with pinky {mice} for the species that need meat, and mix calcium powder to the vegetable for some species that ate snails. I learned how the amazing thing that these turtles and tortoises were survival with strawberries, bananas, apples, other vegetable which they had never eaten before.

Enclosures were designed through the species such as the desert species, tropical species, and aquatic species. The design was modeled to the humidity, temperature, micro-habit, plant species, and food. Galapagos tortoise, Chelonoidis nigra were put in an enclosure on the grass land because it ate grass. To control temperature and humidity they put the tortoises in greenhouse and spray water every day. I learnt on how to design the habitats and fed the tortoises with various food types with various species inhabiting from various places.

When the turtles and tortoises laid eggs, the eggs were put in a cabinet for incubation. Some materials were used for incubation boxes. These materials could not be bought in Cambodia, so I may use something that I could get in Cambodia. Soil, sand, and saw dust were recommended if I applied the method to Cambodia, and I also learnt on how to keep the hatchling for a few days before fed them.

It was very wonderful that I found a female Manouria impressa laying her eggs at the center. I used to hear the local people said that she guarded her eggs and laid on her nest like chicken, now it was amazing it was true, she was protecting her eggs and stayed on the nest. This is very important information learn about the behaviour of M. impressa guarding her eggs.

I shared my experience learning from my research of M. impressa in the wild to the center like moderating the temperature, humidity, designing habitats as in the wild, and food types. I hope my comment would help M. impressa to reduce the failure of survivorship in captivities.
A mountain, located about 15-minute driving from the center, was the place where there were the present of the pond turtles in the stream. It was very dry and hot mountain about 2000m elevation. We hiked along the stream about 3 hours to see these turtles, but I could not see even one of them. However the stream was very beautiful, and we found something jumping from the rock into the water which it was maybe the turtle.

This excerpt from the journal of Koulong Chey, participent in the 2008 session of the Asian Scholarship Program for in-situ Chelonian Conservation indicates a conservationsist thinking about his life's interest in chelonian conservation. He is seeing a new example of a conservation effort, and transalting those actions to what he may do in his home country.

Wildlife conservation takes on many forms of action.  Sometimes these efforts could be best described as hubrisitc meddling. Most efforts seek to 'make a difference' however that may be seen. The question then is, how do we know if we are making a difference? Many scientists will tell us that in the long run, the really long run (beyond most peoples' time consciousness), all species go extinct either by directly dieing out, or evolving into another species - no longer reproductively compatible with the progenitor.  So when we consider our actions in the name of wildlife conservation, it is best to define a means to evaluate success, and if a "difference" has been made and for what length of time.
My organisms of choice for a conservation effort are chelonians, specifically freshwater turtles and tortoises, all of them.  In the United States we have more reptiles conservation efforts per capita than perhaps any other country in the world.  There are many great efforts that can bear example for others to follow.  One of these efforts involves the Northern Diamondback Terrapin (DBT) in Cape May County, New Jersey.  The Wetlands Institute's (WI) Terrapin Recovery Project (TRP) has been in place since 1989. Begun by Dr. Roger Wood, both a professor at Stockton College and Director of Science and Conservation at the Wetlands Institute, where each year a dozen or so university students are invited to an internship participating in the DBT Recovery Project.
I first visited the Wetlands Institute in 1994, along with several co-workers from the Philadelphia zoo, in response to an invitation from Dr. Wood, who had visited the zoo earlier that year.  Each year USA college student would learn about the TRP as interns implementing several means to mitigate the decline of the DBT.  After several visits and weekends at the WI over a few years I proposed the idea of opening the summer intern experience of American students to one man from Viet Nam.  That was in the year 2000. My hope was to create an exchange, so that I might conduct a natural history study of the Impressed Tortoise, Manouria impressa native to some parts of Viet Nam.
The exchanged worked, I went to Viet Nam. But far more significant than my interest to learn about impressed tortoise as it might contribute to that species' conservation, was the impact that Dr. Wood's TRP had on the man from Viet Nam.  So much was the impact, that during that fall the Asian Scholarship Program was formed under the 501 (c)(3) status of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society with the help of Jim Van Abbema.  Jim created the first web page and generated interest in the program among the membership of NYTTS, who helped support some of the ASP participants the first few years of the program.  Later that support has been guided under the organizational umbrella of the Wetlands Institute.  
Later known as the ASPin-situCC - Asian Scholarship Program for in-situ Chelonian Conservation - 18 people in total, had the experience of trudging through salt marshes of southern New Jersey seeking to learn about community based conservation.  Dr. Wood has introduced many residence of Cape May County and the throngs of summer shore visitors to the work being done to conserve the DBT directly and through interns.  These introduction take the form of interns conducting roadkill survey transects, right in the cities and on the elevated roads in and among the barrier islands of the area.  Eggs are collected when possible from vehicle hit DBT, and all fatalities and successful road crossing are recorded, during as many as five transects each day.
Other field work that draws public attention had been crab trap surveys qualifying the number of terrapins caught. This specific study resulting in a device to reduce turtle captures.  The traps are modified with a 'by-catch reduction device' which incidentally can help increase crab take.  The research resulting from this field work conducted by Dr. Wood and many years of interns has lead to changes in fisheries laws, first in New Jersey, and now many other states with DBT and crabbing.
The most recent effort that draws public attention is the installation of seasonal semi-permanent barrier fences along elevated roads between the mainland and the barrier islands.
These and other in-the-public-eye efforts bring the sometimes non-glamourous fieldwork into the realm of community based conservation, as many people invariable seek to know what is going on with all those turtles running around.  The interaction between the interns-researchers and the public has made the DBT a mascot organism for wildlife conservation along the Jersey shore, similar to Osprey, and other conspicuous feathered seasonal residents. The measurable effects of this very public conservation effort can be quantified by the number of states with modified crab traps, the number of students who have been interns, the number of turtles hatched from road killed females, and the innumerable number of people who see people care, by viewing these listed actions.
One way to encourage community based efforts elsewhere would be to fly Dr. Wood to other parts of the world where some sort of incidental take or actual harvest is taking place.  Another productive method is to find local people from all those places, and have them participate in a really good working model of Community based conservation.  This later stratedgy had been the basis of the ASPin-situCC.
To that end the ASPin-situCC brought people with a demonstrated interest in their local chelonian fauna to the Wetlands Institute, so they can be immersed in the TRP, and also have the additional opportunity to meet other similar programs throughout the United States.  Every year the participants had been invited to or been accepted into other venues of a chelonian theme. 
More on the other venues later, let us meet past interns now.  Le Thien Duc, the first person came into the program from Viet Nam. The following year two people came, the first woman in the program Ms. Evy Arida from Indonesia, and Long Kheng from Cambodia. In 2002 three people arrived to the Wetlands Institute, Sovannarah Heng from Cambodia, Firoz Ahmed from Assam India, and Jichao Wang from Hainon Island off the coast of mainland China.  The program's fourth year also had four people in it, Kalyar from Myanmar (Burma), Phouthone Kingsada from Lao PDR, Luu Cahn Trung from Viet Nam, and Riana from Madagascar.  For the following years it was decided that one or two ASPin-situCC participants was a better mix among the American Students in the Terrapin Recovery Project.  The international students do not have driver's licenses, so could not drive the road transects, and housing at the WI is limited.
During 2004 A.H.M. Ali Reza arrived from Bangladesh, followed by Nishant Pillasi in 2005.  Also from, India Rajeev Cahoun came in 2006.  A second person came from China in 2007, Ms. FeiYan Wang.  2008 had two participants again with Ms. Pelf Chen from Malaysia and Mr. Koulang Chey from Cambodia.  Venturing further west in Asian than before Ms. Uzma Noureen came in 2009 from Pakistan. In 2010 we have received Chittaranjan Baruah from India.
For each person who has been accepted into the program, on average an additional three have applied.  For the most part the main criteria include having a demonstrated interest in the local chelonian fauna of the home area, being of an appropriate age to fit in with American university students while living in the dormitory at the Wetlands Institute, and being able to effectively communicate via the internet with the prospect of speaking English once here in the USA.  Some of the past participants have had no college, while others are in a PhD program.  Most have spoken English fluently, but a few had vocabularies (spoken) of just a few hundred words.  Some of the participants are married and have children, so have the difficulty of being away from their families, while others are still living in the family home.
Most past participants are still professionally involved with Wildlife conservation, most associated directly with Chelonians, while a few others have been able to maintain a professional standing in conservation with a shift in focus organism, some to bats, some to trees, some to administrative position in international NGOs.
The first man from Viet Nam, Le Thien Duc worked for WWF in their Hanoi office.  Duc completed an MS at the premier forestry school in Viet Nam.  This years participant, Chittaranjan Baruah, is working on a PhD in BioInformatics as a methodology for turtle conservation.  Firoz Ahmed is a department head for AARANYAK, an NGO in Assam India, and has co-authored a book on the reptiles and amphibians of that region.  Fei Yan Wang is  post graduate student learning biochemistry as it relates to turtle health issues.  Evy Arida completed a post graduate degree in lizard ecology in Australia, and now earned her PhD in Germany. A.H.M. Ali Reza is completed a PhD Texas Tech University, with a country wide study of the herpetofuana of Bangladesh, his home country.  Jichau Wang, also completing a PhD with an emphasis on turtle ecology and conservation.  Uzma Noureen who works for WWF Pakistan is the primary turtle conservation person for her country. This is a short list of the continuing commitment to conservation past program participates have followed.
The other venues that kept the ASPin-situCC new and fresh include Peter Pritchard's Chelonian Research Institute (CRI) in Oveido Florida, who has met and worked with all past interns, and has the highest frequency of working with past interns in their home country.  The CRI receives 'turtle scientists' frequently from around the world who then meet the ASP participant's.  Many ASPin-situCC people also get a visit to an American mainstay of culture, Disney World, while they are at the CRI.
George Heinrich, created a southern states venue including several turtle hot spots between Florida and Mississippi including the Nature Conservancy's Camp Shelby Gopher Tortoise program.  Dr. Bill McCord has received most participants to his home, and introduced them to many species from their home countries, which they had never seen before.  Dr. McCord's incredible contributions to academic turtle work are also emphasized during trips to his home. Thom Wilson, a University Professor in Tennessee has included program participants in his field work on the Tennessee River near Chattanooga. Ralph Hofstra has been the primary coordinator and go-to man, so that ASPin-situCC participants could be introduced to the many large collections and conservation programs in southern California.  Southern California visitors are sometimes hosted by the Behler Tortoise Center. Often participants have spent time in the San Francisco Bay Area with the local guidance of Jim Buskirk.  Kurt Buhlman has received participants to the SREL, as had the late Ray Ashton of Tortuga de finca. Chuck Landry (Thai Turtle Trust) has received participants into the northeast USA and introduced them to many local programs for wood, blandings, and box turtles conservation efforts.  Each year alternate venues may change as all of these experiences are the gift in time and effort of the providers.
Participants have attended many TSA annual seminars with the generous support of the TSA, which has sponsored whole participants' costs.  The late John Behler guided two participants into the ASPin-situCC and helped support their program year through the Wildlife Conservation Society.  Support has come from many in the Zoo community including the Cleveland Metro-parks Zoo, the Tennessee Aquarium, the MetroToronto Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the American Zoo and Aquarium Associations Chelonian Advisory Group.

In all, each person accepted into the ASPin-situCC was involved with at least two, and as many as five venues, all anchored by the long term and highly successful community based conservation program for Diamondback Terrapins run by Dr. Roger Wood at the Wetlands Institute.  The TRP at the WI and Dr. Peter Pritchard's annual reception and investment has made a significant impact on the conservation of chelonians in Asia.  This can be measured by the number of advanced degrees, and publication, the collaborations and continued efforts of all past participants.  It is important to distinguish, the participants of the ASPin-situCC are not great doers for turtle conservation for their participation in the ASPin-situCC, but rather the ASPin-situCC is a well recognized program for the participants it had received.
Many similar organizations and efforts that can now sit side by side with Dr. Wood's Terrapin Recovery Project are the metric that indicates that not only are Terrapins in southern New Jersey safer from human impact, but all range areas of that species are safer based on the community based effort of that program. The TRP has been a model for similar efforts by most of the past ASPin-situCC participants in several countries. Well beyond hubrisitc meddling, more turtles are alive in their wild state today as a direct result of the ASPin-situCC guided by the TRP than had these programs or efforts not been implemented. I would argue that the fiscal costs are very small for the long term impacts made. Those costs were carefully placed on people.

William Espenshade
retired Director, ASPin-situCC

Yvonne G

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Jan 23, 2008
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Interesting, William. Thank you for giving us the follow-up on what "graduated" participants went back to their home country and became involved in.

Anthony P

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Jan 16, 2012
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Swamps, bogs, and vernal pools
What a wonderful account of such wonderful progress. Great job Will, and what a great job everyone has done in making this progress happen. Very powerful stuff..
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