Campaign shells out to help turtles and tortoises

 6 October 2005

The biggest single global conservation campaign to protect turtles and tortoises has come to an end.

Launched in September last year, Shellshock highlighted the extinction crisis facing tortoises and turtles, becoming a Europe-wide campaign involving 200 zoos and aquariums.

A total of 250.058,60 Euros was raised ? 100,000 more than the original fundraising target ? with the support of up to 200 zoos and aquariums throughout Europe.

The money will now be used to support new and existing turtle and tortoise conservation programs that are helping to save these animals in the wild. Initial projects that will be supported include a Leatherback turtle project in Gabon, turtle conservation centres in Nepal, Cambodia and Indonesia and a daring expedition into China to look for the last remaining specimens of four species of box turtle that it is feared may already be extinct in the wild.

Kevin Buley, Chester Zoo?s curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, organised the campaign in conjunction with EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria.

He said: ?Turtle conservation is actually relatively cheap to do. Many of the projects we are supporting can be carried out for less than 10,000 Euros. The amount of money raised during the Shellshock campaign therefore means we are going to be able to help many more species than we originally thought possible

?Although this is the end of the official fundraising campaign it is by no means the end of the work that Shellshock needs to be done to help save turtles and tortoises from extinction. It is our hope that the enormous effort that so many zoos and aquariums have put into the campaign this year will carry on and that we will continue to work together to stop these ancient species from disappearing forever.?

By running the Shellshock campaign, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria has stepped up the global effort to ensure survival of turtles and tortoises and established itself and its member organizations as major stakeholders in the international chelonian conservation community.

Added Kevin: ?Turtles and tortoises have been on our planet for almost250 million years. This means that they have witnessed the rise and fall of dinosaurs, they watched the first birds fly, and they have observed our own rapid evolution from the most harmless of primates. Now, in the space of less than thirty years they are being wiped from the face of the planet.

?Computer Generated Imagery now lets us switch on our televisions of an evening and see extinct sea creatures and dinosaurs just as if they were in a ?regular? wildlife documentary. We can?t let tortoises and turtles be the fictional wildlife television stars of the future. At least through Shellshock we may now have given some of them a chance.?

Shellshock zoos and aquariums came up with a host of original fundraising ideas during the campaign. Keepers at Edinburgh Zoo ran like tortoises in the city?s annual marathon and tried to clock the world?s slowest marathon time. Amsterdam Zoo held a guess the weight of the giant tortoise competition, whilst staff at Newquay Zoo went on a 100 mile trek around Cornwall.

One of the stars of Shellshock, however, has been the campaign mascot ? Oscar the Turtle is a character from Aardman Animation?s Creature Comforts television series ? and thanks to the generosity of his creators, he has appeared on exclusive Shellshock t-shirts, mugs and rulers that have been sold in zoos and aquariums across Europe to raise money for the campaign.
Recently, the Chinese Association of Zoos has launched its own version of Shellshock based on the material provided by the EAZA campaign. Project ?Careshell? will highlight the conservation problems facing turtles to visitors in 17 Chinese zoos.