Boo! With Halloween upon us, the residents at the Turtle Conservancy are enjoying their pumpkin snacks and hoping for more treats this Thanksgiving. But in the back of their minds (yes, they do have brains!) is the always scary reality of what their brethren face in the wild. Here are some recent horror stories from around the globe:
Animal Trafficking: In Madagascar, over 8,000 Radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) were snatched from the wild and imprisoned in a derelict house before being rescued this past April. Unfortunately, some did not survive despite the best efforts of international wildlife groups, including the Turtle Conservancy, which sent a team to assist in the rescue. Even worse, an additional 7,000 Radiated Tortoises were confiscated this month, as law enforcement has deteriorated surrounding the ongoing presidential elections in Madagascar now. Closer to home, the Turtle Conservancy took in over 100 confiscated turtles from local agencies and the US Fish & Wildlife Service this past year. These poor animals had been destined for the Asian pet trade or worse. Some did not survive their capture by the poachers. The various species confiscated are native to the eastern U.S., so the survivors were transferred to the care of one of our board members in New Jersey, where they should feel right at home.
Ocean Pollution: This past summer, on two occasions, several hundred Olive Ridley Sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) were found dead off the Mexican coast. In one instance “ghost nets” are thought to be the cause--that is, fishing gear lost or abandoned and in which the turtles become entangled. As if that's not bad enough, sea turtles increasingly face dangers from the toxic plastic waste contaminating oceans worldwide. Either they get trapped in a piece of plastic or mistake it for food, with fatal results.
Habitat Loss: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, home to Desert Tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) and other wildlife, has been chopped into pieces and shrunk to half of its former size by order of Donald Trump. This means the resource extraction crowd (mining, oil, fracking) can have a field day exploiting the rest of the former Monument to the detriment of its wildlife. The current administration also tore into Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, slashing its acreage by 85%.
Climate Change: Both the Turtle Conservancy's center in Ojai, and its Geometric Tortoise preserve near Cape Town, South Africa were threatened by massive firestorms in the last year. Ojai's turtle residents were evacuated to safety, but sadly, several dozen adult Geometric tortoises (Psammobates geometricus) died when 40 acres of the 812 acre South African preserve were destroyed by fire. The ongoing droughts in California and around the Cape Town region, along with the firestorms, are further evidence of climate change, dismissed by many as a hoax. However, it is clear to us that turtles and tortoises around the world are already facing the consequences of man-made global warming.
What can you do, you ask? Vote. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE!! The midterm elections on November 6 offer all Americans a chance to shape the future health of our planet. If you believe that climate change is real, if you want to preserve our national parks and monuments, if you don't want to see our precious wildlife go extinct, vote for the candidates who share your values. Extinction is forever!
For non-partisan, independent guides on pivotal environmental policy and candidates, we suggest the following links: