Asian Turtle Conservation Program, PO Box222, S? 2/C5, T?p th? ??i h?c Ngo?i th??ng, Chùa Láng str, Tele. 04-7753935

August 27, 2005

The Chindwin River Project
Village Awareness Program Meeting 1

Objectives
To increase knowledge and raise awareness amongst local communities about the threats to the Myanmar Roofed turtle in order to encourage local participation in helping protect the turtle.

Abbreviated References
PL:  Program Leader

Messages

Protecting Our Special Turtle

1. Introduction
The village leader introduces the turtle team and forestry staff to local residents and outlines the purpose and content of the program.

2. Presentation

A.  Introduction to Turtles
Turtles are the oldest reptile group and have been on earth for more than 200 millions years, since the time of the dinosaurs. Turtles represent long lasting life because some species can live for more than 100 years. Turtles can be found in aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats, as well as on land areas.  Their bodies are covered with a shell for protection from predators. However, soft-shell turtles do not have protective shells to hide within if attacked, and must either fight or flee.  Reptiles are cold-blooded. They are different from humans because their body temperature is dependent upon the environment. That means when it is too cold, they will sit in the sun to warm up.  If it is too hot, turtles will bury themselves under leaves or mud to stay cool. Myanmar is home to 24 species of turtles and tortoises, of which 7 species live only in Myanmar and nowhere else in the world. All 24 turtle species of turtles and tortoises in Myanmar are protected under the law. 

B.  Introduction to the Myanmar Roofed turtle
The  Myanmar Roofed turtle is the second most endangered turtle species in the world. They are a large river turtle native to the Ayeyarwady basin. The Myanmar roofed turtles lives only in Myanmar and nowhere else in the world.  Today they can be found only in Chindwin and Dokhtawady rivers.Local people call the Myanmar roofed turtle ?Leik-ka-yee? because males of the species have three distinct black stripes on the carapace much like a watermelon. During the breeding season the male turtles have brighter colors than the females in order to attract their mates. Female turtle lay between 30 to 40 eggs each year on sandbanks.

Question:  Does anybody know how and when female turtles lay their eggs?
Answer:  They lay their eggs at night on sandbanks, digging a deep hole and depositing their eggs in the hole before covering it and returning to the river.  Nesting occurs from December to April.

C.  Introduction to two other species native to the Chindwin; Chitra vandijki and Nilssonia formosa
(The PL shows photos of Chitra v. and Nilssonia f. and asks participants whether they can name the species).

There are a number of other turtle species native to the Chindwin river and two of these are particularly important because they also can be found nowhere else in the world than in Myanmar. 

Question:  Can anyone identify these turtles? 
(The PL selects from the audience a different person to identify each turtle)

Answer:

3. Shan culture story about Myanmar Roofed turtle
(The PL invites the village leader (or another resident organized in advance) to tell the story of the Myanmar roofed turtle according to Shan tradition.

4. Shan protection and Threats
In fact, the only reason why the Myanmar Roofed turtle probably still exists in the Chindwin River is because Shan tradition has protected this rare species, while populations have disappeared throughout the rest of Myanmar!  Unfortunately, today, this help may not be enough, and evidence suggests that Myanmar Roofed turtle populations in the Chindwin River continue to decline. If we are to keep this species a part of our culture and tradition on the Chindwin River, we need to urgently protect remaining wild populations before it is too late.So what are the key threats to survival of the Myanmar Roofed turtle?

Case example:  Just last year, local authorities seized two Myanmar Roofed turtles from a trader heading south on the Chindwin River. 

Case example:  In March, we recovered eggs from the Khamti market where they were being sold.   

Based upon the reports by people up and down the river, wild populations of this important species are quickly disappearing.  If we do not act now to protect them, they will disappear forever from our lives.


5. Discussion
(The PL opens the meeting to discussionThe discussion will focus on illustrating population decline through use of the population chart, maximizing participation by the audience through encouraging residents to share their ideas, and discussion about what people can do to help protect the Myanmar roofed turtles).

PL:  Lets see whether we can illustrate what has happened to wild populations in recent years by hearing from you. (The PL refers to the chart labeled on the Y axis 1985, 2000, 2005, and 2010). 

PL:  Can anyone tell me how many nesting females there were on the beaches 20 years ago?
If hands do not go up, the PL picks one of the older members of the audience to answer.   Assuming that a figure is given that reflects a large number of nesting females, the X axis is labeled and the point is put on the chart.  If no answer is forthcoming or answers are highly contradictory, the PL will fall back to the default (actual numbers from surveys indicating past nesting (n=?), recent nesting (n=?), and current nestings (n=5).

PL:  How about five years ago?
(The PL puts point on the chart or goes to default)

PL:  How about this year? 
(The PL puts point on the chart or goes to default)

PL:  What we can clearly see from the chart is that the population has declined over the past 20 years. 
(The PL connects the points starting with 1985 and running down through 2000 and 2005) 

PL:  What about the future?  What will populations look like in five years if we do not do anything?
(The PL draws an extended line to the Y axis clearly demonstrating how soon the species might become extinct)

PL:  How would you feel if this species disappeared from this river?
(Unless ideas are forthcoming, the PL will select a few people to share their thoughts.  Select a child, a woman, a senior male.  Default to the village leader, which should be prepped for the question in advance).

PL:  How can we help protect the turtle?
(The PL asks for ideas on how ?we collectively? can protect the species.  The PL will repeat the main ideas as they are presented back to the audience.  Below are examples of the types of ideas that should come out.  The PL will present leading questions if necessary to ensure that villagers contribute the most important ideas.  It is essential that the ideas be presented by the audience and not the PL).

Example Answers:
Protect the nesting areas
Stop hunting and trade
Use friendly fishing methods that avoid drowning turtles
Use friendly fishing methods that avoid drowning turtles
Protect nests and stop egg collection
Don?t eat turtles or turtle eggs
Stop people from camping on nesting beaches or planting crops
Help make others aware about the need to protect the turtles
Inform the ranger team if a turtle is caught or traded

PL:  You have all contributed some excellent ideas.   Thank you. 

6.  Conclusion

Turtles have been on earth for over 200 millions years, longer than any mammals and much longer than humans. We should be very proud because there are 24 species of turtles occurring in Myanmar, and some of them live only here in Myanmar and nowhere else in the world!

However, our turtles are under serious threat, especially our special Myanmar roofed turtle which is an important part of our Shan culture. Our roofed turtles need your urgent help to ensure that they will not become extinct and can live peacefully in the Chindwin River in harmony with the Shan culture for many more years to come

.I would like to end with a story, song, or poem from one of you.  Does anyone have something that they would like to share?  (Look for willing participants.  Default to turtle team staff to sing a song).

Thank you.  Before you go, please take the time to look at our photo exhibit on Myanmar?s turtles and the Asian Turtle Crisis.  (PL refers to photo exhibit).

Materials:
Microphone
Lights
Electricity outlets and generator

Ao Paper for chart
Markers and pins/tape to post the chart
Enlarged photos of Chitra v. and Nilssonia f.

Title Board:  ?Protecting Our Special Turtle?

Turtle exhibit:  15-20 enlargements depicting Myanmar turtles, Chindwin River, Asian Turtle crisis including trade, markets of China, etc.  Each photo is captioned.  The exhibit is posted prior to the presentation in a well lit section of the presentation area.