Saving Vietnam's Tropical Turtles


The Turtle Conservancy sent a delegation to Hanoi, Vietnam this past month in an effort to build strategic partnerships in the region and to develop a standardized method for evaluating the  field status of tropical turtles and tortoises, which would. The group was invited by the Turtle Sanctuary, a new organization in Vietnam led by Benjamin LePrince, Luca Luiselli, Thong Pham Van, Olivier Le Duc, and Cedric Bordes.

The IUCN Redlist is the global standard for how endangered a species is. Unfortunately, many turtles and tortoises are data deficient, meaning there simply is not a research focus on that species to understand its population demographics and conservation status. Similarly, many species have not been reviewed for several years and are in desperate need of re-evaluation. Funding for such evaluations is difficult to find, but the Turtle Conservation Fund is one source for aspiring and established conservationists.

The group from the Turtle Conservancy participated in tours of existing rescue centers to help understand the poaching crisis in Vietnam. (You can read about it in the 2017 issue of The Tortoise.) On these tours, we identified areas of greatest concern and how we might be able to consult on finding facilities to house confiscations in the region and mitigate domestic and  international trade.

Lastly, the team joined in on a survey of Dong Mo lake, home to one of the last 4 individuals of the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoeii). This species is widely considered the most endangered turtle in the world. Weather was overcast and rainy, so the team was unable to spot the animal. However, it was amazing to see the home of one of the last of the species and learn more about its threats from fishing, pollution, and dams. The Turtle Conservancy is hopeful that the greater turtle community can come together to help save one of the largest freshwater species in the world.