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New York (May 23, 2014)—The Wildlife Conservation Society, including its flagship Bronx Zoo, is celebrating World Turtle Day with its continued commitment to saving this increasingly threatened group of animals.
“The Wildlife Conservation Society makes turtle conservation a priority every day of the year,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and Bronx Zoo Director. “It’s on World Turtle Day that we make the added effort to increase awareness of the plight of turtles and tortoises and to invite the public to join our cause.”
“At WCS, we are working in the field around the world and in our zoos and aquarium in New York City to protect and to bring awareness to turtles and tortoises,” said Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, Vice President of WCS’s Species Conservation Program. “Only with the help of the world community and the public can we save these endangered species.”
WCS has launched a strategy to save the 25 most endangered turtle species through conservation work at its New York-based zoos and aquarium and through its Zoological Health Program and Global Conservation Programs. A key threat to many species is uncontrolled international trade as pets and food, so WCS works to protect the species in the wild, as well as on education, training, and enforcement programs in key markets, primarily in Asia.
For the most threatened species, WCS maintains breeding “assurance colonies” as a safeguard against extinction. At the Bronx Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo, these include the Chinese yellow-headed box turtle, the Roti Island snake-necked turtle, and the Sulawesi forest turtle—all Critically Endangered. Other species currently maintained in assurance colonies at WCS zoos include: the painted river terrapin; the black-breasted leaf turtle, McCord’s box turtle; the flower-backed box turtle; the radiated tortoise; and the Galapagos tortoise.
In December 2013, a clutch of Chinese big-headed turtles was hatched at the Prospect Park Zoo, the first hatching of this endangered species at a North American zoo.
Working in tandem with zoo and aquarium-based conservation programs, WCS’s Global Conservation Programs help save wild tortoise and freshwater turtle populations in the US and in Myanmar, Cambodia, Guatemala and Brazil, among others. Sea turtles are a focus of WCS’s conservation programs in Belize, Nicaragua, Gabon, Indonesia, and Madagascar.
WCS’s conservation work on turtles and tortoises includes key partnerships with the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), the Turtle Conservancy (TC), the Asian Turtle Program (ATP), the Behler Chelonian Conservation Center, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and others.