October 3 (Hanoi) ? Turtle conservation experts from the Cuc Phuong Turtle Conservation Center (TCC) and the Asian Turtle Program hosted a special seminar on Vietnam?s turtles for more than 130 students and ten professors from the Xuan Mai Forestry College. The event was aimed at increasing understanding and raising awareness amongst mainly senior-year students about the need to protect Vietnam?s tortoises and freshwater turtles threatened by hunting and trade.
Bui Dang Phong, park coordinator of the TCC provided students with basic knowledge about the ecology and reproductive strategy of turtles, after which live examples of a few species of turtles rescued from the illegal trade were shown to the audience and Mr. Phong led a discussion on the physical characteristics of turtles.
Following a presentation on a Vietnam Perspective of the Asian turtle crisis by Doug Hendrie, seminar participants had the opportunity to watch the McCord film featuring some of Vietnam?s turtles in Chinese markets. The seminar ended with Mr. Phong fielding a range of interesting questions from students about conservation of turtles (student questions translations attached).
Xuan Mai Forestry College is one of five forestry colleges in Vietnam. Most graduates go on to become wildlife protection officers, staff at national parks and protected areas, or foresters. The Asian Turtle Program is working with universities to enhance student exposure to the Asian turtle crisis and develop interest in conservation, research, and protection of turtles.
In early 2006, a special field skills training course will be offered at Cuc Phuong National Park for the second year in a row. Two senior thesis students will also develop projects focused on turtles in coordination with Cuc Phuong National Park and the Asian Turtle Program.
The training seminar was supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo as part of ongoing activities of the Asian Turtle Program.
A sampling of questions from the seminar follows:
Q1: Nowadays, the demand for turtle as a specialty is great whereas its supply is limited. So what can we do to meet the demand and meet the conservation at the same time? How to preserve the species that are not easy to be farmed?
A: Some soft-shell turtle species are easily farmed such as Pelodiscus sinensis. However, most hard-shell turtle species are not easily farmed due to their ecology. It takes many years for a turtle to mature and ten or more years for a newly born turtle to be raised into a size suitable for selling. The investment required to breed the turtles surpasses their benefits. Consequently, breeding hard-sell turtles is unprofitable.
The best way to preserve the turtles is to prevent the illegal hunting, trading and transportation and raise public awareness on turtle conservation.
Q2: Would you hold a turtle and tortoise identification training course to the students of Forestry University?
A: That?s a good idea. Turtle Conservation Center of Cuc Phuong National Park (TCC) in cooperation with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has held many turtle and tortoise identification training workshops for students of some universities. We will discuss with your professors and make a plan for the workshop in the near future.
DBH added: In 2006, we plan to hold a week long training course on research field skills development and telemetry radio study to students. If anyone is interested, please tell your professors or contact me via email or telephone.
Q3: As far as I know, Vietnam has many native turtle species. However, they are critically endangered. How does the turtle conservation network run and what is required to become a turtle expert?
A: Vietnam is the home of 23 fresh water turtles and tortoises, of which Mauremys annamensis is considered as endemic. The turtle conservation network in Vietnam includes TCC in Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh Province and Soc Son Rescue Center in Hanoi. We are planning to establish a center of visitor awareness on turtles in the future. Also, we have been carrying out some field research projects on turtles, namely a Pyxidea mouhotii project and a Rafetus project. These projects run with the support and consultancy from international experts.
In order to become a turtle expert, you must have some professional knowledge and some English. Furthermore, it is better if you are really interested in the turtle species.
Q4: We have never visited TCC, so could you tell me something about the way to protect and conserve turtles in TCC?
A: The turtles in TCC mostly came from the Ninh Binh and Thanh Hoa Provincial FPD who confiscated them in wildlife trade and transportation. TCC received the turtles from them to rescue and treat. In addition, TCC breeds 10 species that can reproduce 200 individuals every year.
Q5: I don?t know much about farming turtles. If I see turtles being served as specialty in restaurant, what can I do?
A: If you see turtles in restaurant or in trade, you can record the time, exact location and detailed information and then call our Wildlife Trade hotline at 04.7754850 and we will cooperate with the functional authorities to take timely actions to deal with the case.
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Nguyen Thi Van Anh
Asian Turtle Program
PO Box 222
Hanoi , Vietnam