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11 16/11/2015

New hope for rare turtles

Four critically endangered Asian turtles have arrived at Chester Zoo - boosting survival hopes for the rare species.

Batagur

The painted batagur turtles, aged between one and three years old, have arrived from Toronto Zoo in Canada as part of an international breeding programme aiming to maintain a thriving population of the turtles in zoos around the world. Chester is the only zoo in the UK to care for the species and herpetological experts hope to create a safety-net in case the turtles become extinct in the wild.

We also support vital conservation work in Sumatra, where one man named Joko Guntoro set up the Satucita Foundation and made it his life’s mission to try and save the turtles. Joko monitors the beaches and rivers where the animals live, collecting eggs and rearing the young to improve their chances of survival, before reintroducing them back into the wild and tracking their progress. The information being gathered is giving conservationists a better understanding of how the turtles live and their biology.

Dr Gerardo García, curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates at Chester Zoo, said:

Painted batagurs are one of the world’s most endangered turtle species. They’re currently at an extreme risk of extinction, which is a direct result of extensive hunting for their meat and eggs, as well as the deteriorating environments surrounding rivers in their native South East Asia.

If we are to save the species from extinction then much more funding is needed in order to protect the habitat where they live. It’s the actions of a very, very small group of people like Joko that has contributed massively to the conservation of painted batagurs so far.

It’s vitally important that we support the work being done, reinforcing the wild populations and working with the local communities. We have reached out to offer a helping hand, not only financially, but also through our technical skills and knowhow. We hope to play a big part in safeguarding the species for the future.

The painted batagur is one of the largest living fresh water turtle species and, since 1996, has been classed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered. The species can now only be found in very small, isolated populations in Southern Thailand, the Malaysian peninsula and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

Painted batagur facts:

  • Scientific name: Batagur borneoensis
  • The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list the species as critically endangered to extinction
  • There has been a huge decline in the wild population of painted batagurs as a result of the illegal pet trade and hunting
  • Painted batagurs are also referred to as painted terrapins, saw-jawed terrapins or three-striped batagurs
  • For most of the year, both males and females are relatively dull in colour, characterised by brown and grey shells with solid or broken black stripes or patches. The species gets its name from their coloration during breeding season. In the summer and winter breeding seasons, the heads of the males turn white with a strip of red on the top, between their eyes. Their shells also become whiter or lighter grey in appearance, making their stripes more prevalent
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