by Heather Lowe
A team from the Turtle Survival Alliance recently visited Bhawal National Park in Bangladesh, home to one of the captive assurance colonies of the Sundarbans river terrapin (Batagur baska) that was assembled over the past few years. This colony is thriving and in 2013, for the second consecutive year, the world’s known population of this critically endangered species more than doubled thanks to the breeding success here and in a group in India. The team’s travel was disrupted by political unrest in the region, but thankfully they were able to reach the park and accomplish a lot while they were there!
Using an endoscope, the team was able to sex some of the hatchlings from 2012 and 2013. They were very pleased to confirm that both sexes are being produced after some husbandry changes allowed for better control of nest temperatures. Additionally, all hatchlings were implanted with PIT tags that will allow for individual identification in the future.
Looking to long-term management of this species, tissue samples were obtained from all adults, hatchlings and the two wild-caught specimens recently obtained by the program. The samples were then exported for genetic analysis. The results of this analysis will allow the team to learn about the relatedness of the turtles in the collection, paternal parentage and determine ideal breeding pairs in the future to maximize diversity.
While at the park, the team worked with staff to trim trees around the enclosure to allow for better sunlight exposure and made plans for some modifications that are needed to the largest breeding pond. They also held meetings with our newest partners on the project, IUCN-Bangladesh. This project is supported in large part by a two-year grant from SOS – Save Our Species, and with the generous financial support of the Vienna Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Columbus Zoo, and the Wade Foundation.