Despite decades of conservation work, populations of North America’s smallest turtle, the bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii), is continuing to decline. Habitat destruction, invasive plants, road-kill, and the illegal pet trade have all played a role in the bog turtle historic decline, but researchers are now reporting increased mortalities across bog turtle populations, bringing fears of disease or an as-yet-unnamed environmental issue.
Veterinarians with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo have teamed up with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program to do full health testing on bog turtle individuals to see if they can resolve the mystery.
“We’re conducting a broad screening in order to identify a cause or causes for the increase in bog turtle deaths,” said Dr. Bonnie Raphael, W’s Department Head for Wildlife Medicine. “This information will be used to help determine if these recent losses are attributable to infectious disease, environmental perturbations, or other factors.”
Found in the Eastern US, bog turtles are listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered. At most these tiny turtles grow to about 4.5 inches in length.
A bog turtle in its natural habitat. Health experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo are working with state and federal wildlife managers to determine why bog turtles are dying in higher numbers than usual. Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society.
A researcher collects data on a bog turtle during a recent health assessment of the species in New York and Massachusetts..
(02/23/2011) Surviving hundreds of millions of years on Earth have not saved turtles from facing extinction at human hands. A new report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Turtle Conservation Coalition, identifies the world’s 25 most imperiled turtles, including one that is practically assured extinction: ‘Lonesome George’ the last Abdington Island tortoise in the world. The list includes four turtle species from South and Central America, three from Africa, and one from Australia. But Asia is the hotbed for turtles in trouble with 17 of the top 25 species, or 68%. The numbers are even more alarming if one looks only at the top ten: eight of the top ten are in Asia, and six of these in China.
(09/30/2010) One thousand endangered tortoises are being illegally collected each week in southern Madagascar, reports WWF.
(09/10/2010) More than 40 percent of the world’s freshwater turtle species are threatened with extinction, according to a new assessment by Conservation International. Turtles are threatened primarily by hunting, habitat destruction, and the pet trade, making them among the most endangered groups of animals.