History and Mission
Transforming passion for turtles into effective conservation action through a global network of living collections and recovery programs.
The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) was formed in 2001 as "an IUCN partnership for sustainable captive management of freshwater turtles and tortoises." The TSA arose in response to the rampant and unsustainable harvest of Asian turtle populations to supply Chinese markets, a situation known as the Asian Turtle Crisis. Recognizing that some species of turtles and tortoises were unlikely to survive without well-managed populations, the TSA was charged with developing breeding programs for the most critically endangered of the world's chelonian species.
For seven years, the TSA functioned within the IUCN (World Conservation Union) structure, recognized as a task force of the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG). With branches in Europe and the U.S., the TSA organized a diverse partnership involving zoos and aquariums, universities, private breeders and serious hobbyists, veterinarians, conservation NGOs, range country turtle facilities and turtle rescue organizations. That diversity is one of the TSA's core strengths and has allowed the development of a global network of linked breeding programs, known as Assurance Colonies. The TSA has attained recognition for its ability to build partnerships with government regulatory authorities and to help move otherwise doomed, illegally traded, and confiscated turtles and tortoises into programs designed to prevent their extinction. Assurance Colonies are organized both in situ (in the range country) or ex situ (outside the range country) and are crucial to preventing the extinction of many species, some of which have already been lost in nature.
Since forming, the TSA has become recognized as a global force for turtle conservation, capable of taking swift and decisive action on behalf of critically endangered chelonians. Although the TSA was organized in response to the Asian Turtle Crisis, the group is well positioned to respond to other endangered turtle species, particularly where a managed breeding component is included in their overall survival strategy. Today the TSA supports projects or programs – both wild and captive - that benefit 21 of the World’s 25 Most Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles.
In 2005, the TSA sought nonprofit status and created the TSA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) registered in the State of Texas and with an office at the Fort Worth Zoo who provide administrative support. Because of the success of its conservation programs around the world, the TSA found itself in need of full-time staff in order to maintain our current rate of growth and meet the urgent conservation issues facing turtles and tortoises. The TSA also sought to be better positioned financially and gain greater visibility within the international donor community. To facilitate a fresh approach the decision was made in 2008 to adopt a more corporate structure with a formal Board of Directors.
In 2013, the TSA centralized its base of operations in Cross, South Carolina by opening the Turtle Survival Center (TSC). In just three years the TSC has become recognized as a world-class turtle conservation center, complete with a greenhouse, veterinary clinic, quarantine facility, and multiple indoor/outdoor enclosures. This center is the TSA’s first and only U.S.-based conservation center, and is home to a growing collection of more than 700 turtles and tortoises, representing 32 of the world’s critically endangered species, and cared for by a staff of five full time employees. The collection at the TSC is a result of a careful and in depth review of every turtle and tortoise species, drawing on the expertise of a core TSA group of conservation biologists both in the US and abroad.
Today, the TSA is an action-oriented global partnership, focusing on species that are at high risk of extinction, and working in turtle diversity hotspots around the world. Widely recognized as a global catalyst for turtle conservation based on its reputation for swift and decisive action, the TSA has made a bold commitment to zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century. With projects or programs in Belize, Colombia, Europe, Madagascar, and throughout Asia, the TSA is a recognized force for turtle conservation globally. TSA’s conservation actions utilize a three-pronged approach:
1) Restoring populations in the wild where possible,
2) Securing species in captivity through assurance colonies, and
3) Building the capacity to restore, secure and conserve species within their range country