May 23 is dedicated to an animal species that has lived on Earth for more than 220 million years: the tortoise. People all over the world participate in conservation projects for these animals. Vacationers can also make their own contribution.
Suzy is a singer, although not in the classical sense. Her head is bald and her mouth is toothless. But compared to other turtles, Sue is very special and like all Divas, she loves to be the center of attention. When visitors approach the aquarium at Allwetterzoo in Münster, the Lady Tortoise paddles close to the board and presents itself on all sides: its silver-colored shell, its round eyes, and of course its long, slender neck. Thus, she nodded her head strongly to her visitors. “She communicates with us,” says Philip Wagner. The biologist is the Curator for Research and Species Conservation at Allwetterzoo. Similar to dolphins, the corners of Suzy’s mouth always point upward. That’s why she seems to be smiling.
If Suzy was human, she would have stopped laughing a long time ago. “Our Susie is Chelodina mccordi, which in English is a McCord snake-necked turtle and this species is critically endangered,” says Philip Wagner. “Overall, about 60 percent of all turtle species are threatened and many of them could soon disappear from our planet forever.” A species conservation expert knows there are many causes. “Humans are encroaching more and more on animal habitats, and there are fewer opportunities for laying eggs.” There is also plastic pollution of rivers and seas, drying up of wetlands and climate change.
“The Asian species, to which Susie also belongs, has another problem,” Wagner says. “In many Asian cultures, turtles are considered lucky charms and symbols of longevity. This appreciation, which is pleasant in itself, becomes their doom. Because people there believe that the positive characteristics of animals can be passed on to humans by eating meat, internal parts, bones or shells “The leadership has now prohibited citizens from trading or eating wild animals. That’s fine, but from Philip Wagner’s view there is no reason to breathe.” Turtles are also part of traditional Chinese medicine. Each year, millions of wild animals are processed into pastes, tonics and tinctures, including turtles, seahorses and snakes. Thus, the looting of stocks in nature will continue, and it is also a question of how long this ban will remain in place.”
Since 2002, Münster Allwetterzoo has been making extensive efforts to save Asian turtle species that are becoming extremely rare or already extinct in the wild from extinction. The beautiful Susie is also one of the last of her kind and as such is an ‘ambassador’ for the protection of the species managed by zoos. Since the animals are very sensitive, the breeding station at Allwetterzoo can only be visited by visitors to the zoo in exceptional cases. However, if you wish, you can adopt a turtle and in this way support the conservationists of the species at Allwetterzoo. More information is available at www.allwetterzoo.de.
Not only does Monster have a heart full of turtles. There are initiatives and organizations around the world committed to ensuring that the calm and frugal reptiles that have lived on our Earth for more than 220 million years do not disappear and thus dinosaurs escaped the blue planet forever. The procedures for rescuing loggerhead sea turtles are particularly arduous and time-consuming. Sea turtles have been hunted for centuries for their delicious meat. Today it is under international protection through the Washington Convention for the Protection of Endangered Species. However, stocks are declining. Every day, an unknown number of adult animals die due to unwanted bycatch in trawls used in the fishing industry. Species conservationists find this difficult to remedy.
Therefore, most initiatives to save loggerhead sea turtles aim to ensure that at least as many of their young as possible reach the sea. “Even before hatching, crabs and martins steal the nests. On the way to the water, seabirds pick up their young and predatory fish lurk in the water,” says Albert Taxonera of the Projeto Biodiversidade initiative on the island of Sal in Cape Verde, whose miles of sandy beaches are among the The world’s most important loggerhead sea turtle nesting area, Albert and his companions regularly patrol the nesting beaches during the spawning season. They unfavorably move nests created by mothers and protect the clutches from predators. We welcome the help of tourists who are vacationing on the island. The outside also adopts a nest. Animal rights activists write the names of the adoptive parents on a board, as well as the number of eggs in the sand. When the young hatch, vacationers receive an email with pictures of their offspring. More information is available at www.projectbiodiversity.org.
A project dedicated to protecting Aldabra turtles wants to show that tourism and nature conservation are not mutually exclusive. Although the survival of giant tortoises is currently considered guaranteed, but because this species has a small range, natural disasters or epidemics can very quickly push Aldabra tortoises to the brink of extinction. 98% of the natural populations of this tortoise live in the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean. The second largest population can be found on Fregate Island, a private island belonging to the Seychelles. The island, owned by German industrialist Otto Abel, is used for tourism, but conservationists oversaw the construction of the resort. The hotel also maintains a conservation team that cares not only for the 3,500 Aldabra tortoises that live on the island, but also other endemic species, including the endangered Seychellois, a magpie-like bird. A visit to the ‘Turtle Sanctuary’, where injured and sick turtles are treated and dabs are cared for, is a very special holiday memory for most of the resort’s guests (www.fregate-island.de).