Huge dead turtle found on Sidon’s coast

A huge dead turtle was found on Sidon’s coast on Saturday morning Aug. 16, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatri)

SIDON, Lebanon: A gigantic dead turtle is not what Sidon beachgoers were expecting Saturday morning, but the recurrence of such a disturbing sight is raising concerns for the migrant population of turtles in south Lebanon.

A number of people reported that a huge turtle was found on Sidon’s coast in the early hours of the morning, prompting municipality workers to swiftly remove it.

Maritime experts estimated that the turtle was likely over 100 years old.

In the past three years, at least six turtles have been found dead on the coast of Sidon and Tyre, but experts aren’t certain of the cause behind the rising phenomenon.

The most plausible reason is sea pollution, namely trash from a nearby dump for fishermen. Experts have warned that turtles eat plastic bags, thinking they are jellyfish

Lebanon’s south coast is a tradition safe haven for sea turtles, with several species arriving every year to lay their eggs between June and July.


Shark-bitten turtle rescued on Ossabaw

Posted: August 15, 2014 – 10:46pm  |  Updated: August 16, 2014 – 9:07am
<p node="media-caption">Photo courtesy of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center</p><p node="media-caption">Phoenix is recovering at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.</p>

Photo courtesy of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Phoenix is recovering at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.

First the bad: She was bitten by a shark. That’s clear from the telltale semi-lunar chunk missing from her shell behind her right front leg, said naturalist John “Crawfish” Crawford.

A shark bite is a bit unusual for a big girl like Phoenix, an adult sea turtle who weighs in at 190 pounds. Sharks aren’t known to be discriminating diners, but Georgia’s adult loggerheads are too large and spend too much time feeding on the ocean floor to be much of a target for these predators, said Mark Dodd, a Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist and the state’s sea turtle coordinator.

Phoenix may have had an infection or injury that left her drifting and vulnerable to a shark attack, Dodd conjectured.

But then there’s the good luck: Phoenix washed up on Ossabaw Island, lethargic but alive on a recent Saturday morning.

It was the same Saturday as this year’s turtle tour for the Ossabaw Island Foundation for which Crawford provides the naturalist services. He was leading a group of 13 island visitors to a turtle nest excavation, a scientific inventory that takes place routinely after a nest hatches, when they stumbled upon Phoenix.

Carolyn Kilgore, one of two turtle technicians posted on the island for the nesting and hatching season from May to October, was already tending to her in the surf. It was a National Geographic moment.

“We were expecting to go around and see the marshes, see them do a nest and maybe see little turtles that didn’t make it,” said Dr. Sidney Smith, who went on the trip with his wife and 13-year-old daughter. “We didn’t expect to see live turtles.”

The visitors helped pad an ATV with marsh wrack and hoist Phoenix into the vehicle for her ride to the dock, where DNR staffers met them and transported her to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll.

There, an exam revealed the shark bite had not punctured her lung or body cavity, a lucky break for Phoenix. An X-ray did show, however, that she had a blockage in her intestinal system.

She was given intravenous fluids, B vitamins and wound care. Though she initially had no interest in food, she started to eat on Thursday, a good sign for her recovery.

For the Ossabaw visitors, the adventure didn’t end with Phoenix’s rescue.

At the nest excavation, they uncovered 54 straggler baby turtles they escorted to the surf. And in the afternoon Crawford showed them the biggest alligator nest he’d ever seen, a pile of vegetation nearly the size of a compact car. The mama gator, which Crawford has observed many times before, was nowhere to be seen, probably off feeding in a saltwater river, he said. But her babies from a prior year were swimming nearby. Passing another pond, the group scared up a flock of hundreds of white egrets, a scene Smith said looked like “something out of Africa.”

“That was a magical, magical day,” he said.


The Turtle Walk Weekend is one of about 10 public trips the nonprofit Ossabaw Island Foundation has sponsored this year to encourage visits to the 26,000-acre Chatham County barrier island, which is owned by the state and operated as a heritage preserve.

Other trip themes have included stargazing, the history of Ossabaw Island and archaeology. An indigo dyeing workshop is scheduled for Sept. 13-14 with overnight accommodation on Ossabaw in the clubhouse, boarding house or camp on the North End.

Prices for that weekend trip begin at $100 for foundation members who camp. Participants will receive a custom-made T-shirt to dye indigo blue. For more information, go to


Carving a message


A whittled tribute to the Blanding’s turtle

John Miller needs to stay busy. At 87, he isn’t inclined to sit on his porch and watch the world go by. So he carves. Birds, mostly. But lately, John has been concerned about the plight of the Blanding’s turtle. A developer is seeking to construct nine massive industrial wind turbines on a rare alvar habitat on Crown land at Ostrander Point.

Last spring, a Ministry of Environment review panel revoked the developer’s permit, persuaded that the Blanding’s turtle would suffer serious and irreversible damage from the project. A Divisional Court overturned the panel’s decision in January. Another appeal, set for this fall, will likely have the final say about what happens at Ostrander Point and the fate of the Blanding’s turtle and other endangered species that rely on this special habitat.

Inspired by the story, Miller has carved a Blanding’s turtle and painted it with the distinctive yellow chin and shell fringe. His work is on display at Sidestreet Gallery in Wellington. Miller has included a oftrepeated ode to the turtle, penned on the back of his work.

“The turtle can’t go out to play
Or sell his house or rent it
For when he moves, his house moves too
And nothing can prevent it.”


Police plea after tortoise goes missing from garden off Boroughbridge Road

SHELL SHOCK: The tortoise which is believed to have been stolen from a family’s garden in York

SHELL SHOCK: The tortoise which is believed to have been stolen from a family’s garden in York

First published 09:20 Tuesday 19 August 2014 

THIS tortoise has been stolen from a family garden in York.

Tina, a Hermann’s tortoise, was taken from the garden in the Ouseacres area off Boroughbridge Road.

Her owner said the only way she could have disappeared was for someone to take her. They said: “We let her have run of the garden while the weather was good and we had checked there was nowhere she could get out of the garden.”

She was last seen on April 6 and the family have not been able to find her since. They hope someone may recognise the picture.

The matter has been reported to North Yorkshire Police. If you have any information please call the control room on 101.


New York businessman calls for Aspen Art Museum boycott


Indian poachers threaten lesser-known animals

In this July 9, 2014 photo, Indian star tortoise huddle together at the Bannerghatta National Park on the outskirts of Bangalore, India. Wildlife activists in India have raised an alarm that scores of lesser known animal species are being pushed to the brink of extinction because of rampant poaching and trafficking, while conservation efforts over the past two decades were focused on saving India's iconic tigers and rhinos. Tens of thousands of lesser-known animals, such as pangolins, tortoises and geckos, have been killed or smuggled out of India to supply a growing demand for the skin, parts or flesh of these animals, or sold to people wanting to keep them as exotic pets. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Wildlife poachers, hindered by India’s efforts to protect majestic endangered animals including tigers and rhinos, have begun to think smaller. And activists say scores of the country’s lesser-known species are vanishing from the wild as a result.

The Indian pangolin — a scaly critter whose defense mechanism of rolling up into a ball is no help against humans — and the star tortoise — a popular pet that maxes out at a foot in length — are just two of the species that are being killed or smuggled in increasing numbers while conservation efforts focus on such iconic animals such as tigers and elephants.

“The problem is that we were turning a blind eye to all lesser-known species and suddenly this very lucrative trade has been allowed to explode,” said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, an advocacy group.

Wildlife specialists say the growing affluence of China, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries has helped drive the demand for exotic animals. Some are kept as pets, while others are eaten for their purported but questionable medicinal or aphrodisiacal properties.

Pangolins are killed for their meat, which is considered a delicacy, and their scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The scales are made of keratin, the same protein that forms hair and fingernails, and have no documented medicinal value.

The pangolin trade was once obscure in India, with an average of only about three a year reportedly killed by poachers between 1990 and 2008. Wright said that soared to an average of more than 320 per year from 2009 to 2013.

That only covers confirmed seizures. Customs officials and wildlife experts estimate that seizures form only 10 percent of the total illegal trade. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimated in a report last month that more than a million pangolins have been poached from habitats in Asia and Africa.

Star tortoise seizures by airport and port customs officials also have increased dramatically, from an average of less than 800 per year from 1990 to 1999 to more than 3,000 per year from 2002 to 2013, according to the protection society.

Similarly, the growing demand for lizard skin, meat and bones has led to the near-disappearance of the monitor lizard in the Indian countryside, said Tito Joseph, a program manager for the society. Monitor lizard meat, especially the tongue and liver, is mistakenly believed to have aphrodisiacal properties, while lizard skin finds use in high-end bags and belts.

Such animals became more attractive to poachers as the Indian government strengthened the tiger conservation program it began nearly four decades ago. Vast swathes of forests and hills have been turned into tiger reserves and national parks.

Indian officials deny neglecting lesser-known species. Creating the tiger reserves also helps protect smaller species in these areas, they say.

“The focus on tigers does not mean that other species are not taken care of,” said S.B. Negi of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, a government agency.

But the bureau has only just begun efforts to collect data on many smaller species now in peril, including the pangolin, reflecting the scant attention they have received so far. Kamal Datta, a director at the bureau, said the agency has asked wildlife departments in India’s 29 states to collect the data, but some have yet to begin.

“The trade in lesser known species cannot be ignored, else entire species, such as the Indian pangolin, are in danger of being wiped out,” said Wright.

Pangolins, often described as “walking artichokes” on account of their coats of overlapping scales, were once found across India.

When threatened by predators, the animal protects itself by curling up into a scaly ball, but that makes it easy for poachers to bundle them into sacks for transportation.

Most of the illegal trade in pangolins and other species takes place across the porous border that India shares with Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh, experts said.

Activists say efforts to stop the illegal trade are hampered by a lack of knowledge among customs officials and border guards about the species they are supposed to protect.

“We’re talking here of the threat of pangolins being wiped out. But most often the officials set to catch the poachers don’t even know what the animal looks like, let alone who are the people involved in catching them, or those involved in the trade,” said Shekhar Niraj, India director of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, generally considered to be the most comprehensive of its kind, lists 374 species in India that are vulnerable and 274 others that are endangered, or critically endangered, and at risk of becoming extinct.

“This is a huge tragedy in the making,” Wright said. “We must act before it is too late, or many of these spectacular animals will disappear.”


Tilt: Aquarium adds weights to level out swimming of injured turtle

By Joe Wojtas Publication: The Day Published August 15. 2014 4:00AM

Mystic Aquarium photo
A team at Mystic Aquarium prepares to use epoxy on the shell of Charlotte the turtle. The aquarium attached two pouches to hold weights that should allow the injured turtle to swim more horizontally.

Mystic – Since being hit by a boat propeller six years ago, Charlotte the green sea turtle has been forced to adopt a head-down swimming style.

Affectionately named “bubble butt” because she paddled at almost a 90-degree vertical angle in the water with her rear end sticking up, the juvenile Mystic Aquarium turtle became the subject of a children’s book that tells her story of compassion, perseverance and overcoming challenges.

But now aquarium veterinarian Dr. Allison Tuttle and her staff have borrowed a noninvasive procedure used by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to rehabilitate turtles, and now Charlotte is swimming almost horizontally in the water.

The aquarium used sandpaper to roughen a portion of her shell, applied an epoxy and then attached two custom-made neoprene pouches. Different sized weights are placed inside to help Charlotte balance in the water.

Over the next few months, the aquarium will continue to adjust the weights so Charlotte’s muscles can get accustomed to swimming more horizontally.

“She was the model patient. She was calm throughout the entire process,” Tuttle said Thursday as Charlotte paddled nearby in the Stingray Bay exhibit. “She’s tolerated the weight very well and doesn’t seem stressed out by them at all.”

In 2008, Charlotte was struck by a boat propeller, which caused a spinal injury that partially paralyzed her lower digestive tract and hind flippers. This also caused gas to accumulate in her digestive tract, making her float with her rear end up.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island discovered her stranded nearby and cared for her before sending her to Mystic Aquarium. Charlotte has since become part of the aquarium’s collection because she would not be able to survive in the wild.

While Charlotte now weighs about 77 pounds, the fact that she will grow much larger prompted the aquarium to apply the weighted pouches.

Tuttle explained that in order to swim, Charlotte had been using muscles that were not designed to move the way she was using them. Meanwhile, her primary swimming muscles were getting weaker.

In addition, the aquarium worried that her neck was rubbing on her shell as she tried to lift her head up.

“As she grows, we want to make sure she grows normally and with the appropriate muscular development,” she said.

Tuttle said Charlotte is now using the appropriate swimming muscles.

“She’s slowly learning that she has to move slightly differently,” Tuttle said. “She’s getting in shape.”


Alligator snapping turtle stocking underway


August 15, 2014 7:30 am  •  By Les Winkeler

Although never common in the region, the alligator snapping turtle has all but disappeared from Southern Illinois. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, along with several other agencies, has embarked on a long-term program in an attempt to re-establish a breeding population.

The alligator snapping turtle prefers slow-moving backwater areas of major rivers, such as the Big Muddy, Ohio, Mississippi and Cache. They typically would not be found in small ponds and lakes.

“In Southern Illinois, habitat degradation, draining of flood plains, construction of levees — nationwide, farther south in their range it’s been over harvesting,” said Scott Ballard, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “In Illinois I don’t think they were ever common enough where over-harvesting would be a problem.”

Nest predation by raccoons and armadillos is another issue.

Research for the stocking project began nearly 10 years ago. The first stocking occurred earlier this summer. Ballard said 97 turtles were released in Union County.

The model biologists are working on calls for at least 75 turtles to be released each year for eight years. Each annual release will include turtles of various ages. If the model is correct, those releases should establish a breeding population.

“After year four we should be able to see if that model is holding true,” Ballard said. “If it is holding true, we might be able to reduce the number we are releasing.”

About half the turtles being released are fitted with radio transmitters so biologists can track the progress of the project.

Even under the best of circumstances, alligator snapping turtles are rarely seen. They don’t bask on logs. They typically don’t cross roads. Ballard said they rarely leave the water except when the females lay eggs.

The turtles, particularly the males, are large animals. Females may reach about 40 pounds where males can reach 100-150 pounds. Large common snapping turtles are commonly misidentified as alligator snappers.

“There are several differences,” Ballard said. “One difference is alligator snappers have the pink, worm-like lure in the mouth. The second difference is they have an extra row of marginal scutes, the scales on the shells. What you have is this row of marginal scutes around the edge of the shell.

“A third difference is that alligator snapping turtles have ‘eye lashes.’ They are like little fleshy tubercles, almost like the star you get when you were a good kid and you draw an eye in the middle of the star.”

A predator that feeds on fish and crayfish, the alligator snapper uses its tongue to lure prey.

“A lot of times where you find alligator snappers, they like structure – around downed logs,” Ballard said. “That’s where fish hang out. They back into the log and start wiggling that tongue. It brings fish right in. It’s really wild to watch them.”

Two other differences, the alligator snapping turtle’s shell has ridges on its shell and a strongly-hooked beak.

The IDNR has numerous partners in this endeavor including the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, Louisiana Fish and Game, Tulsa Zoo, Missouri State University, Northeast Louisiana State, St. Louis Zoo, Peoria Zoo, Illinois Natural History Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The project is also getting a boost from the biology classes at Pontiac High School. The high school classes get hatchlings from the St. Louis Zoo and care for the turtles for up to four years. The turtles are then taken to the Peoria Zoo for testing before they are released.

Ballard noted that taxpayer dollars are not funding the project.

Paul Ritter, a biology teacher at Pontiac High School, secured grants from State Farm Insurance. Other costs are being paid from the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund. That fund is financed by donations.

“In order for this to be a true success, we have to be able to show they are recruiting on their own,” Ballard said. “We’ll have to be able to find nests.

“This is the beginning of a long-term recovery program. We can get the right structure for them to breed, but in order for them to recover; they have to breed on their own. Recovery is never easy.”


Giant South American River Turtles Talk to Each Other, Study Finds

By Hannah Osborne August 15, 2014 11:59 BST

giant south american river turtle

Giant South American river turtles speak to one another through a range of vocalisations (C. Ferrara/Wildlife Conservation Society)

Giant South American river turtles talk to each other, with a range of vocalisations for different situations, scientists have discovered.

The ‘talking turtles’ were studied by experts working in the Brazilian Amazon, who found they use several different kinds of vocal communication to coordinate their social behaviours.

Published in the journal Herpetologica, experts believe the vocalisations are used to stay together and look after the young. Findings showed one of the sounds was used by female turtles to call their newly-hatched offspring – the first time this has been witnessed in turtles.

The study, led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), found that sounds made when turtles were migrated through the river tended to be low frequency, which could be to allow contact over long distances. During nesting, vocalisations tended to be higher frequency, which travel better in shallow water and air.

giant south american river turtle

Mother turtles synchronise their nesting through sounds.(C. Ferrara/Wildlife Conservation Society)

Camila Ferrara, an aquatic turtle specialist from the WCS, said: “These distinctive sounds made by turtles give us unique insights into their behaviour, although we don’t know what the sounds mean. The social behaviours of these reptiles are much more complex than previously thought.”

Researchers recorded 270 individual sounds, making 220 hours of recordings over three years. They divided them into six different types of vocalisation.

The highest diversity was among females about to nest, suggesting these sounds are used to decide on a specific nesting site to synchronise movements – turtles leave the water in a single file procession.

Giant South American river turtles are the largest of the side-necked turtle family, growing up to 80cm in length. They are only found in the Amazon River and are a threatened species. “Groundbreaking studies such as this one can help us better understand the complex relationships between both individual animals and their environment,” said Julie Kunen, executive director of WCS’s Latin America and the Caribbean Programme.

“Protecting the still sizable populations of Giant South American river turtles will also enable us to conserve the behavioural richness of these reptiles for future study.”

Click here to be taken to the sound recording of a turtle talking.


Sea turtle eggs start to hatch in Hyogo Prefecture

August 15, 2014


AKASHI, Hyogo Prefecture–The first sea turtle eggs in six years found on the Seto Inland Sea coast west of the Akashi Strait began to hatch Aug. 14.

Infrared cameras installed on Bokai beach by the Sea Turtle Association of Japan and the Akashi city government gave a close-up view of the baby sea turtles breaking their shells and emerging from the eggs.

About 140 eggs were discovered on the beach in June.

According to Tatsuya Oshika, a senior official of the Kobe municipal Suma Aqualife Park, the eggs are those of loggerhead sea turtles.

The sea turtles generally spend several days in the sand after hatching, so they are expected to head into the sea around Aug. 17 to 21.

Live images of the eggs in the sand can be seen on the city’s special website at (

A baby sea turtle breaks out of its egg on Bokai beach in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture. (From the Akashi city government’s website)

A baby sea turtle breaks out of its egg on Bokai beach in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture. (From the Akashi city government’s website)



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