News from Zoos
Joint conservation project in Florida
The Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Port Authority, with the assistance of the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection, are working to rehabilitate and enhance a small island in upper Hillsborough Bay. A man-made
offshoot of two other islands, the exhibit island will be incorporated into the Aquarium's local eco-tour programs for
the purpose of educating the public and school groups about the abundant wildlife that thrives in these habitats
when properly managed as natural systems.
The project began in June 2000 with an examination of existing plant communities and physical characteristics
of the island. After the island's natural composition was determined, staff began removal of the exotic, invasive
plant species that covered approximately 80% of the island. Replacing exotic plants with native species such as
mangroves, buttonwoods and various native grasses will allow for the creation and installation of microhabitats
representative of the types that naturally make up the bay system (mangrove forest, salt marsh, etc.). The final
construction phase includes adding boardwalks, trails, and interpretive signage to accompany eco-tours and education
programs that highlight the island. The site will also provide an opportunity for collaborative efforts with local
environmental groups, colleges and universities to develop monitoring projects on the island's restoration. [Source:
Turtle Survival Alliance rescues 7,500 turtles
On December 10, 2001, nearly 7,500 critically endangered turtles were confiscated in Hong Kong. Without the
quick-paced conservation efforts of The Fort Worth Zoo and the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), the animals faced
Destined for the illegal food trade, the shipment of turtles, valued at $3.2 million, was en route to China when
intercepted by Hong Kong customs. The shipment, the largest seizure of live turtles in Hong Kong, was transported
to Kadoorie Farms Botanic Gardens, Hong Kong, for identification and initial triage.
"Currently, seized turtles are simply destroyed because there is no place for them, and they are already sick or
injured," said Rick Hudson, TSA co-chair and Conservation Biologist at the Fort Worth Zoo. "In need of intensive
veterinary treatment, the turtles can't be released back into the wild."
"Before the creation of the TSA, confiscated turtles were disposed of in an effort to curb illegal harvesting. The
TSA provides an ideal option, which channels these turtles into captive programs where they can be rehabilitated
and managed long-term. It's a win-win situation for all involved, especially the turtles."
Shortly after being seized in Hong Kong, the 7,500 confiscated turtles were sent to Miami, Florida, where a
multidisciplinary team, spearheaded by the TSA's co-chairs Rick Hudson (Fort Worth Zoo) and Kurt Buhlmann
(Conservation International), developed "Assurance Colonies" for the endangered turtles. Located throughout the
United States, these colonies will maintain these species for their eventual recovery.
Representatives from the Fort Worth Zoo arrived in Miami on Wednesday, December 19, 2001 to assist with
rehabilitating the animals, maintaining a centralized database on all individuals and finding appropriate homes for
the turtles. This is not an easy task once you consider everything that must be done for each turtle stabilizing,
assessing medical needs, weighing, measuring, drawing blood, sexing and marking all 7,500 specimens. In addition,
TSA's partners had to convince other zoos, universities and private breeders to make room for new turtles and
carefully ship each to its future home.
Six Asian Mountain Tortoises found among the shipment will be returning with Fort Worth Zoo representatives.
The Fort Worth Zoo is one of the vital TSA partners providing a safe haven in which these turtles will eventually
breed, thereby helping save a dozen species from the brink of extinction. [Source: Fort Worth Zoo / ENN]