Turtle Hatchling in Costa Rica

April 18th, 2013

By Jordanna Dulaney

A Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) hatchling. The Olive Ridley is named for its olive-colored heart-shaped shell, which changes from dark grey to olive as the turtle matures. Like other sea turtles, the Olive Ridley nests and hatch in tropical waters and then migrate to subtropical areas like the southeastern or eastern central Atlantic.

Although it is considered the most abundant sea turtle in the world with 800,000 nesting females estimated, Olive Ridleys are ranked “Vulnerable” by the IUNC. Major reasons for the ranking are habitat pollution, by-catch in fisheries (becoming caught in fishing nets), and devastating egg harvests and hunting.

Happy world turtle day! (photos)

May 23rd, 2011

Baby marine turtle taking its first step out to sea in Costa Rica. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Baby marine turtle taking its first step out to sea in Costa Rica. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Yes, there is a World Turtle Day created by the American Tortoise Rescue! And today (May 23rd) is that day!

Ancient leopard tortoise in Uganda. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Ancient leopard tortoise in Uganda. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Sumatran freshwater turtle. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Sumatran freshwater turtle. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Leatherback sea turtle returning to the sea after laying eggs in Suriname. Photo by: Jeremy Hance.
Sumatran freshwater turtle. Photo by: Jeremy Hance.

Radiated tortoise in Madagascar. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Radiated tortoise in Madagascar. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Photos: the end of the radiated tortoise?

April 18th, 2011


Like the American bison or the passenger pigeon the radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) has gone from super-abundant to nearly extinct. The species could be gone by 2030 warn researchers. Photo by Robert Walker.

Once one of the world’s most abundant tortoises, numbering in the millions, Madagascar’s radiated tortoise is on the very brink of extinction. Killed for their meat by one of the world’s most impoverished people, new surveys last month by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), The Orianne Society, and Nautilus Ecology have further confirmed the precipitous decline of this once common reptile.

“Traditionally, tortoise meat was served on special occasions, but now it is eaten on a daily basis. Hundreds of pieces of discarded tortoise shells litter the sidewalks in some communities. This staggering level of consumption is not sustainable,” explains Dr. Christina Castellano, Director of Turtle Conservation at The Orianne Society in a press release.

Armed poaching gangs are causing “the systematic extermination of this species” says Ryan Walker, a biologist with Nautilus Ecology.


Tortoise meat being prepared for sale in a poaching camp. Photo courtesy of The Orianne Society.


Radiated Tortoise shells litter the ground in the town of Tsiombe. Photo courtesy of The Orianne Society.

For more information on the demise of the radiated tortoise:

1000 rare tortoises poached each week in Madagascar

(09/30/2010) One thousand endangered tortoises are being illegally collected each week in southern Madagascar, reports WWF.

Once common tortoise from Madagascar will be ‘extinct in 20 years’

(04/05/2010) The radiated tortoise, once common throughout Madagascar, faces extinction within the next 20 years due to poaching for its meat and the illegal pet trade, according to biologists with the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Returning from field surveys in southern Madagascar’s spiny forest, they found regions without a single turtle. Locals said that armed bands of poachers were taking truckloads of tortoises to be sold in meat markets. The tortoise is also popular in the underground pet trade, although it is protected by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

Photos: tortoise dwarfed by grape, seriously

April 11th, 2011


No, this is not photoshopped: this month-old Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) is actually dwarfed by a grape.

A new resident of the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire, the tortoise is the offspring of a group of tortoises seized by customs last year as a sting on the illegal pet trade. The tiny tortoise pictured weighs 0.2 ounces (6 grams), but within a decade will weigh nearly hundred times that much at 1.1 pounds (500 grams). They are the smallest tortoise in the northern hemisphere, unfortunately the Egyptian tortoise is also one of the world’s most threatened. Listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the tortoise faces agricultural and industrial pressures, but has actually been decimated by the pet trade, which is now illegal. Only a few thousand survive today in the wild. Photo courtesy of ZSL


A close-up of tortoise v. grape. Photo courtesy of ZSL.