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A nest of endangered turtle found in Mekong river in Cambodia

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A nest of endangered turtle found in Mekong river in Cambodia.
A nest of endangered turtle found in Mekong river in Cambodia. wikimedia
  • An endangered giant turtle was found in Cambodia
  • The turtle was transferred to Wildlife Conservation Society
  • The turtle is taken to breed and all the eggs hatch and the hatchlings are released into the river.

Phnom Penh, Dec 20, 2017: A nest of the globally endangered Asian giant softshell turtle was found on a sandbar on the Mekong river in Cambodia, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.

This is the only remaining area in the country where these huge turtles still breed. This nest was now being protected by native communities until all the eggs hatch and the hatchlings are released into the river.

The Asian giant softshell turtle or Pelochelys cantorii is listed on the IUCN Red List as globally endangered.

It was thought extinct in the Cambodian portion of the Mekong river until its rediscovery in 2007 in a 48-km river stretch in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.

The Mekong Turtle Conservation Project, formerly managed by Conservation International, was transferred to the WCS this year, with collaboration from the Fisheries Administration and the Turtle Survival Alliance.

The community-based protection programme encourages the participation of the communities living in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces by hiring former nest collectors to search for and protect nests, instead of harvesting the eggs.

Since 2007, a total of 378 nests have been protected and 8,528 hatchlings released.

“From now until June is the breeding period of the Asian giant softshell turtle. This is the first nest we have found so far this year. We will work hard with the Fisheries Administration and local communities to find more nests along the Mekong river and protect them from egg collection,” Som Sitha, WCS’s Technical Advisor to the Turtle Conservation Project, said.

“The Asian giant softshell turtle is a very rare species that will become extinct in the near future if we do not take proper action to conserve them. There are not many individuals left. Everyone can help conserve the species by not buying or eating their meat or eggs.” (IANS)

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Urban Jungle Might Be The Answer to Helping Some Endangered Species

Red-crowned parrots, now a part of the ecosystem in Southern California, are descendants of immigrants. They are originally from Tamaulipas, Mexico, where they are now endangered.

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Red-crowned parrots, now a part of the ecosystem in Southern California, are descendants of immigrants. They are originally from Tamaulipas, Mexico, where they are now endangered. Pixabay

At sunset every day, an almost deafening sound from the sky can be heard in a community just east of Los Angeles. It is the sound of parrots that have become a familiar part of life here.

“There’s poop everywhere,” said Havolynn Rose Owaleon. But she and many of the residents in this area have gotten used to the parrots.

“They’re not quiet at all, but you know, it’s something that you listen for, ’cause if I didn’t hear them on a daily basis, then I know something is really wrong,” Owaleon said.

Feathered immigrants

Red-crowned parrots, now a part of the ecosystem in Southern California, are descendants of immigrants. They are originally from Tamaulipas, Mexico, where they are now endangered.

They were poached in their native habitat, arrived in the United States and sold as pets. Some of the parrots escaped or were released and have since multiplied and thrived in an urban environment.

“They are good at making a habitat for themselves in major cities, and this is what happened in Pasadena and East L.A. So, these are birds that live pretty much exclusively off of trees that are also not native to our area,” explained Ursula Heise, who teaches at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of English and at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

As transplants to Southern California, the red-crowned parrots have become such permanent fixtures that they are on the California Bird Records Committee’s list of birds in the state.

“They’ve been naturalized as California citizens,” Heise said.

The red-eared slider turtles bask in the sun at the University of California Los Angeles Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden. These turtles are not native to California.
The red-eared slider turtles bask in the sun at the University of California Los Angeles Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden. These turtles are not native to California. VOA

Cold-blooded immigrants

Often seen basking under the California sun near a body of water, red-eared slider turtles also are not native to the U.S. West Coast but originally immigrated here as pets, then were released or escaped into the wild. Native to the central United States, the turtles have adapted and thrived across the United States and around the globe.

“Because this species is so commonly exploited for food and the pet industry, it’s the one that gets released the most often,” said Brad Shaffer, UCLA distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science.

Urban haven

The success of the red-eared slider turtles and red-crowned parrots in the Los Angeles area have some academics wondering whether a city can be a place to help endangered non-native animals, similar to the role of a zoo but better.

“At least it’s living in the wild. It’s making its own living. It’s having the lifestyle that turtles or that parrots should have; it’s just doing it in a different place,” Shaffer said.

This is an example of how animals, birds in this case, have used human created structures, such as this building, and made it a home. It is a building on the campus of University of California Los Angeles.
This is an example of how animals, birds in this case, have used human created structures, such as this building, and made it a home. It is a building on the campus of University of California Los Angeles. VOA

“We have put up major buildings. We’ve put up expanses of concrete. We’ve introduced a completely different vegetation, and in many cases, that’s led to a reduction of biodiversity because a lot of our created habitat is not hospitable to the native species. But the other side of that is that we’ve created new ecological niches and new kinds of habitats,” Heise said.

These artificial habitats could become new homes for birds, bugs or other creatures whose native home may be threatened.

Shaffer said any non-native species that is introduced would have to be carefully picked to minimize the risk of causing harm to the existing wildlife population in the city and beyond.

“There’s always that danger, and I think the real question is, can we minimize that danger by doing sort of the best possible ecological science to be able to identify species that will thrive in cities and won’t thrive outside of cities?” Shaffer said.

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Even without human intervention, Shaffer warns that species will migrate outside of their native environment, potentially causing harm.

“I think we will have a lesser chance of that going on if we have some strong science behind it, compared to if we just sit back with our heads in the sand and wait,” Shaffer said. (VOA)