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Asian Turtles and Sandalwood High School - 2004

Crisis? What Crisis? Hey, if they are having problems with turtles on the other side of the world, what difference should it make to us? As long as it doesn’t happen here, we’re fine, right?

That’s the mentality that will get us in trouble. As herpers, or generally anyone who is in tune with nature in any way, knows that all plants and animals join together to form complex food webs. Once you start taking a few "ingredients" out of the "recipe", things just are not the same! As herpers, we know that all organisms play an important role in the local ecology.

So, where does this Asian thing come into the picture? To make a long story short, Several countries are to blame, but China is at the top of the list. As China’s economic situation has changed over the years, money has fallen into the hands of the common person. It used to be that only the wealthy could afford certain things. Turtles are consumed heavily in China for various reasons. For starters, they are an easily obtainable food source. They also use them in medicines and other superstitious rituals. One species is supposed to guarantee a long, healthy marriage if consumed.

Once the lower class people started getting more money, they wanted a piece of the action as well. Now, many of the once common turtles in China are gone, or almost gone. They have now turned to neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and others for turtles. Many of these are crossing the borders illegally.

Several conservation organizations are taking active parts in trying to fix this problem. Over the last few years, several shipments of turtles have been intercepted by authorities and the turtles, those who survived the trips, are being rehabbed and placed into breeding colonies for the possibility of future reintroduction to their native lands. The JHS’s own Vic Morgan is a participant and viewed the carnage in Miami not too long ago.

One such organization, the Asian Turtle Consortium, started by Dave Lee, is a group of several organizations and private breeders who are maintaining assurance colonies to preserve certain species that are imperiled.

One species that he is taking an active role in trying to promote is the Vietnamese (or Annam) Pond Turtle, Mauremys annamensis. This small pond turtle is functionally extinct in the wild, as only a few individuals have been found recently. There are only a few hundred currently know to exist in captivity. It is on the list of the 25 most endangered turtles in the world. Dave has enlisted the help of several teachers around the country to headstart small numbers of these turtles for a few years and then send them back to their very small range in central Vietnam in controlled colonies that will hopefully induce reproduction at home.

We at Sandalwood High School are VERY pleased to be a part of this project. Sunday, October 10, we drove to Port St. Lucie to pick up our turtles.

Other schools participating here in Jacksonville are Forrest High School (with our very own Richard Rooker and his herpetology club), Ridgeview High School (with David Campbell; JHS advisory board), Kernan Trail Elementary, Jacksonville Beach Elementary and James Weldon Johnson Elementary.  Known contacts at this time are:

Sandalwood HS - Mike Monlezun 646-5100 x176

Forrest HS - Richard Rooker 573-1170 x5530

Kernan Trail Elem. - Deborah Franz 220-1310 x159

Ridgeview HS - David Campbell 272-3003 x3650

Manny Granados of Myexotix graciously donated a large turtle tub and accessories to us at Sandalwood High School for this project. If anyone else wishes to make donations of any kind, you can make the donations to the school of your choice. We have t-shirts and tote bags available as well. Most of our needs would be cash to make purchases such as food and miscellaneous upkeep items. Larger donations would be used for lab equipment for various things such as measurements, microscope, and webcam so we can share our experiences with others.

Here are a few links that you may find interesting:

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