World Turtle Day 2018

by Jordan Gray 

Dear Friends of Turtles,

Today we celebrate the beauty and diversity of turtles and tortoises, and share our passion and commitment to protecting them. Although May 23rd marks a singular, yet important day for spreading global awareness of chelonian conservation, every day is “World Turtle Day” for us at the Turtle Survival Alliance. The TSA works relentlessly 365 days per year to preserve over 100 chelonian species, including 20 of the Top 25 Most Endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles and their habitats. The persistent commitment to our vision of “zero turtle extinctions in the 21st Century” is nowhere more evident right now than in the country of Madagascar.

This year, on World Turtle Day®, I am in Madagascar as I write this, witnessing first-hand the amazing men and women who have united for one cause, and it is hard to think about anything else. That being said, I hope you will join me in celebrating our “Team Radiata” responders and the amazing work they have performed over the past six weeks to save the lives of thousands of Radiated Tortoises.

When news first broke from our TSA-Madagascar staff of the confiscation of over 10,000 Radiated Tortoises destined for transport to the Asian pet trade, we were heartbroken. Confiscations of this scale and magnitude are rare, and in the 17-year history of the TSA, this is the largest and certainly the most challenging we have been called in to support. Dealing with a seizure of such proportions is a daunting task, but the TSA did not blink, and immediately swung into action. Team #1 of our coordinated relief effort was on the ground in a week, saving lives, and relieving the small cadre of exhausted Malagasy veterinarians and staff that were the first responders. We are indebted to them, as well as SOPTOM’s Village des Tortues in Ifaty for allowing us to convert their facility to a tortoise triage and refugee center.

To date, the TSA, with support from numerous partners, has deployed 4 teams to Madagascar, each averaging 12 people, including veterinarians, veterinary technicians, animal care specialists, and construction workers—to help save these unfortunate tortoises. This World Turtle Day®, we are excited to announce that overall the tortoises are doing great, and are well on their way to recovery. Since “Team Radiata” #1 arrived, we have had relatively few deaths—a testament to the skill, dedication, and hard work of the more than 50 individuals who have volunteered to join this remarkable relief effort. I don’t believe there is another organization in the world capable of mounting such a coordinated and effective response, but of course we did not go it alone.

Times like these demonstrate what the Turtle Survival Alliance is all about. In an unparalleled response effort, more than 60 zoos, aquariums, conservation organizations, and private donors GLOBALLY joined forces with us, backing the effort with supplies, funding, and personnel. This is the best example I have ever seen of the global turtle conservation community coming together under one banner, with one singular goal: saving tortoises.

Yet, our job is far from complete. Optimistically, we will be caring for these tortoises for at least two years, allowing time to recover their strength and weight, before they can be released into the wild. The TSA is in for the long haul, and is committed to seeing this disaster through to a successful outcome. But we need your continued support. While we have done much good, we can’t “take our foot off the gas.” Adding 10,000 tortoises to our program in Madagascar will require extra keepers, security staff, veterinary support, and FOOD that this huge number of tortoises will consume. So, on the occasion of World Turtle Day® 2018, lets double down on our commitment to these tortoises so that next year at this time we can reflect on this moment with collective pride for a job well done.

We humbly ask that you celebrate World Turtle Day® 2018 by MAKING A DONATION to sponsor a Radiated Tortoise. Your contribution will not only help continue the lives of these beautiful, iconic, and critically endangered tortoises, but craft a better future for Radiated Tortoises in Madagascar!

All my best for World Turtle Day® 2018,

Rick Hudson

President – Turtle Survival Alliance