Date: June 5, 2009
Rafetus Eggs in China!
The following report is taken from a communication that Gerald Kuchling provided from China today: The female Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) at the Suzhou Zoo in China has been showing nesting behavior and was observed on the beach digging on the nights of May 29, 30 and 31. No laying was observed at that time. But, when the female was not seen on the beach again for several days, the team made the decision to dig up the beach and search for a nest, which they found! A very well-hidden nest of 56 eggs was discovered by the team and it is believed that she laid the eggs sometime during the night of May 31. Four of the eggs were found slightly cracked, 28 were placed into incubators with varying degrees of temperature and humidity and the remainder were left in the nest, along with two temperature data loggers. Incubation media and protocols have been modified this year and we are confident that we "have all our bases covered."
The team is hopeful that this is the first of two possible clutches this year, and has requested a camcorder and storage unit that can be used to monitor the nesting beach overnight. This will allow them to pinpoint the location of the nest next time, and gain access to the eggs more quickly. TSA Board Member David Shapiro has already generously offered to cover the cost of this equipment - thank you David! Thank you also to all of the TSA members who have donated to this project thus far. The team is hopeful and already making plans for any potential hatchlings that are produced this year. Hatchlings would be divided between the Suzhou Zoo and the Changsha Zoo, owner of the female. Dr. Gerald Kuchling and Lu Shunqing are traveling to the Changsha Zoo this week to inspect improvements and modifications that have been made to their turtle facilities, in anticipation of receiving hatchlings. It is likely that more equipment (tanks, filtration systems, etc.) will be needed for these improvements to be complete, so we encourage you to continue to support this project as we eagerly await more news from Team Rafetus!