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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon

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Environment

Nov 26, 2018

Rescued Indian Tortoises Fly Home to India on International Rescue Mission

In a unique repatriation mission, over 50 Indian Star Tortoises are finally flying home from where they were originally smuggled and sold into Singapore as victims of illegal wildlife trafficking.

WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

This story was made available to The Outdoor Journal via a Wildlife SOS press release.

The 50 Indian Star Tortoises tortoises had been smuggled into Singapore illegally where they were confiscated by Singapore authorities. With cooperation from the Indian & Singapore Governments, they will now be repatriated to India and returned to their natural habitat in the forests of Karnataka.

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, India based wildlife conservation charity Wildlife SOS working closely with the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Govt. of India secured permissions to repatriate the tortoises indigenous to India. Investigations confirmed Karnataka was the origin of the tortoises. A team of senior forest officers travelled with Wildlife SOS CEO Kartick Satyanarayan to Singapore to conduct physical inspection of the tortoises housed at the ACRES rescue center.

Rattle is one of the rescued tortoises

Singapore Airlines contributed to the cause of wildlife conservation by transporting the tortoises for free.

A three member team from Wildlife SOS India consisting of Veterinary Director Dr Arun A Sha, Special Projects Manager – Wasim Akram and Communication & Press Officer – Ms. Arinita Sandilya accompanied the tortoises from Singapore to India. They were joined by a three member team from Acres Singapore led by Anbarasi Boopal – Deputy CEO.

The tortoises were transported in specially designed boxes for the long plane journey and upon arrival in India, received by a team from Wildlife SOS including co founder Geeta Seshamani and former Chief Wildlife Warden and Head of forest force of Karnataka Mr. BK Singh.

The tortoises being prepped for their journey to India

Once the tortoises have completed their quarantine period of 3 months, Wildlife SOS intends to initiate radio tagging and monitor these animals for survival. This landmark project not only helps augment the endangered populations in India, but will also demonstrate the commitment from the Governments of India and Singapore and their zero tolerance to illegal wildlife trade.

Indian star tortoise is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and listed in Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna), which regulates international trade of wildlife. Yet it is one of the most trafficked tortoise species in the world owing to the unique star-like radiating pattern on their shell. The Indian Star Tortoise is poached extensively for their meat and use of their body parts in traditional medicine as well as for the exotic pet trade. Illegal trafficking of tortoises from Southern India to places like Singapore, China, Honk Kong Thailand, Malaysia etc. fuel the demand for this species.

One of the rescued tortoises all set to come back to India

Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-founder & CEO – Wildlife SOS said, “I am relieved that these tortoises are finally coming back to where they belong. I’m also delighted that the partnership between Wildlife SOS and ACRES resulted in a successful repatriation project. I’m grateful to the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF& CC), DGCA & Customs officials, Ministry of Agriculture, Government authorities of India & Singapore, Chief Wildlife Warden of Karnataka for their support and guidance.”

Anbarasi Boopal, Deputy Chief Executive of ACRES, said, “The odds never favoured us but our perseverance and sheer will together with support from Wildlife SOS paved the way for us to repatriate these animals. Blue, Rahayu and Boltz are just some of the animals we have repatriated in the past years which has led to our largest repatriation ever – the Indian star tortoises. We will continue our fight to end the illegal wildlife trade and strive to ensure that these animals stay where they belong – in the wild.”

Geeta Seshamani, Co founder & Secretary-Wildlife SOS said, “While we work together to put an end to illegal wildlife trafficking, it’s critical that such repatriation efforts are made to return these unique animals to their native habitat.”

Shri C.Jayaram, IFS, PCCF (Wildlife) & Chief Wildlife Warden of Karnataka said, “The Karnataka Forest Department is extremely happy to be a part of this unique opportunity to rehabilitate and release these tortoises back into their natural habitat.”

Dr Arun. A. Sha Director- Research & Veterinary Operations, Wildlife SOS said, “A team of Wildlife SOS field researchers will track these animals. A special soft release – anti predatory enclosure has been built by Wildlife SOS to prepare the tortoises for release into the wild. Each Tortoise will have visual identification (unique code on its carapace & plastron as well as microchips to identify individuals.”

Wasim Akram, Manager Wildlife SOS Special Projects said, “We have been working closely with the State forest department to identify a suitable location for soft release of these tortoises into their natural habitat. We will be installing radio telemetry devices (tags) to carry out post release monitoring to ensure their survival in the wild.

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Environment

May 14, 2019

Bringing Kiwi Back to Wellington

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

This article was made available to The Outdoor Journal via a press release by Tourism New Zealand.

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic Kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird. Wellingtonians are known for their love of flat whites and their passion for the arts. But there’s a new pastime that’s rapidly growing in New Zealand’s capital and all around the country.

Assembling and setting traps for rats, stoats and other predators in their own backyards. It’s a somewhat unlikely hobby, but in Wellington alone, there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management.  They’re all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world and a paradise for native birds such as the tīeke (Saddleback), hihi (stitchbird), kākā, kākāriki and toutouwai (North Island robin). 

In Wellington alone there are now more than 70 community groups involved in pest management all aiming at making their home town the first predator-free capital city in the world. Photo by: Capital Kiwi

Ever since conservation project Zealandia created a fully fenced 225-hectare ecosanctuary within the city limits in 1999, native birdlife has returned to many suburbs and Wellingtonians have embraced their avian friends. The groups are part of a groundswell of community conservation initiatives sweeping New Zealand and delivering fantastic results.

“Where once it would have been a remarkable sight to see a single kākā (a boisterous native parrot) in the wilderness of our mountain ranges, we now have literally hundreds of them across Wellington city, screeching across city skies,” says self-confessed “bird nerd” Paul Ward. Buoyed by the birdsong orchestra he thought, “Why stop there? Let’s bring back New Zealand’s most iconic bird, the Kiwi.” “The only time I’d seen a Kiwi growing up was in a zoo, and that’s not right for our national taonga (treasure),” he insists. 

The flightless birds with hair-like feathers and the chopstick bill have been absent from Wellington for over a century due to the loss of their habitat and the spread of predators. Ward’s ambitious project Capital Kiwi hopes to lure Kiwi back to the Wellington region within the next decade. Approximately 4,400 traps will be set on 23,000 hectares of public and private land stretching from the outskirts of town to the coast.

“Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime”

As long as stoats, ferrets and weasels are around, Kiwi chicks have hardly any chance of surviving their first year.  An average of 27 Kiwis are killed by predators each day according to charity ‘Kiwis for Kiwi’ which supports community-led initiatives around the country. They warn that at this rate “Kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime.” 

But projects in Rakiura / Stewart Island in the south of New Zealand, Whangarei Heads in the north and Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty have shown that with the involvement of the community as kaitiaki (guardians) it is possible to grow a wild Kiwi population. 

The project Capital Kiwi hopes to bring New Zealand’s iconic birds back to Wellington by setting more than 4,000 traps in the hills on the outskirts of the city. Photo by: Capital Kiwi.

Michelle Impey, from Kiwis for Kiwi explains that one of the challenges of Kiwi conservation is “getting people to understand and care about something they can’t see and don’t experience.”

Kiwis are nocturnal, and with only a few exceptions live far removed from cities, towns and villages. “Bringing Kiwi closer to where Kiwis live makes them top of mind, completely relevant, and creates a sense of ownership with those who are privileged enough to have them living on or near their land,” Impey adds. She hopes that the new project will create “a city of Kiwi conservationists” who feel a personal attachment to their national bird. 

In August 2018 the government’s Predator Free 2050 initiative, which aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten the nation’s natural wildlife by 2050, announced their support for Capital Kiwi, committing more than NZ$3.2 million over the next five years.  It may sound like a lot of money, but the other way of looking at this is “What is the cost if we don’t?” Ward ponders.

“Can we, as a nation of Kiwis, afford to let our national icon die and become extinct? What would that say about us as guardians of the taonga (treasure) that makes our country so special and unique?”

https://www.outdoorjournal.com/featured/environment/reaction-european-single-use-plastic-ban/

Ninety-year-old Ted Smith, who lives in the small seaside settlement of Makara just over the hills from Wellington, helped to kick off the project with the setting of the first trap in November. He and his local community started trapping in their backyards a decade ago which resulted in a remarkable increase in birdlife – tūī, kākā, kererū, pūkeko, kingfishers, quails and others. “If we allow Kiwi to die out then we deserve to be called idiots,” he says. Wellingtonians love the vision of having Kiwi rummaging through their gardens and Ward says he’s been overwhelmed with the offers of help and support from the community.  

“We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington”

Capital Kiwi has received hundreds of emails from people keen to help. Schoolchildren are now monitoring tracking tunnels, mountain bikers and trail runners check reserve trap lines on lunchtime rides and families come together to build traps. If the eradication proves successful after three years, the Department of Conservation will look at translocating Kiwi to the hillsides. The hope is that in less than a decade, tourists will be able to post their Kiwi encounters on the outskirts of Wellington on social media, and locals will beam with pride at hearing the shrill call of the country’s iconic birds in their backyards. 

“I would love to be woken up by the sound of the Kiwi. We want to see Kiwi come back into Wellington,” the capital’s Major Justin Lester says. 

The Department of Conservation is backing Capital Kiwi too. “Getting Kiwi back into the hills of Wellington where people can hear them call is a great way to demonstrate what New Zealand could look like if we get rid of the stoats and ferrets,” DOC’s Jack Mace says. 

“It would certainly add another feather to Wellington’s cap as one of the best places to see New Zealand’s unique wildlife.”

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Whilst you’re here, given you believe in our mission, we would love to introduce you to The Outdoor Voyage – our booking platform and online marketplace which only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

Cover Photo: New Zealand’s little spotted Kiwi at Zealandia Eco-sanctuary in Wellington. Photo by: Zealandia Eco-sanctuary

 

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