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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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Athletes & Explorers

Dec 13, 2018

Steph Davis: Dreaming of Flying

What drives Steph, to free solo a mountain with nothing but her hands and feet, before base jumping? “Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear."

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

Presented byimage

In the coming days the Outdoor Journal will release an exclusive interview with Steph Davis, follow us via our social networks and stay tuned for more.

Do you have to be fearless to jump off a mountain? Meeting Steph Davis, you quickly realise: no, fearlessness is not what it takes. It’s not the search for thrills that drives her. She’s Mercedes travelled to Moab, Utah to find out what does – and to talk to Steph Davis about what it takes to climb the most challenging peaks and plunge from the highest mountaintops.

Steph Davis, getting ready to jump. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

At noon, when the sun is at its highest point above the deserts of southeastern Utah and when every stone cliff casts a sharp shadow, you get a sense of how harsh this area can be. Despite Utah’s barrenness, Steph loves the orange-gold landscape with its towers and elegantly curved arches of sandstone. But Steph is not here because of the natural spectacle. Here, in this area which is as beautiful as it is inhospitable, she can pursue her greatest passion: free solo climbing and BASE jumping.

Castleton Tower… Look closely. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Today, Steph wants to take us to Castleton Tower. We travel on gravel roads that are hardly recognizable, right into the middle of the desert. Gnarled bushes and conifers grow along what might be the side of the road. Other than that, the surrounding landscape lives up to its name: it is deserted. Steph loves the remoteness of the area. “One of my favourite places is a small octagonal cabin in the desert that I designed and built together with some of my closest friends. It’s not big and doesn’t have many amenities but it has everything you need: a bed, a bathroom, a small kitchenette … and eight windows allowing me to take in nature around me. That’s pretty much all I need.” Steph Davis cherishes the simple things. She has found her place, and she doesn’t let go.

No ropes, no safety net. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Castleton Tower is home turf for Steph. She has climbed the iconic red sandstone tower so many times she’s lost count. The iconic 120-metre obelisk on top of a 300-metre cone is popular among rock climbers as well as with BASE jumpers. Its isolated position makes it a perfect plunging point and it can easily be summited with little equipment – at least for experienced climbers like Steph Davis.

“It would be reckless not to be afraid. But I don’t have to be paralysed by fear.”

Steph is a free solo climber, which means she relies on her hands and feet only – not on ropes, hooks or harnesses. She loves to free solo, using only what’s absolutely necessary. She squeezes her hands into the tiniest cracks in the stone and her feet find support on the smallest outcroppings, where others would see only a smooth surface. Steph climbs walls that might be 100 metres tall – sometimes rising up 900 metres – with nothing below her but thin air and the ground far below. She knows that any mistake while climbing can be fatal.

Flying. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

The possibility of falling accompanies Steph whenever she climbs. Is she afraid? “Of course – it would be reckless not to be. But I don’t have to be paralysed by fear.” She has learned to transform it into power, prudence, and strength. “It’s up to us to stay in control.”

“You have to learn to face your fears and accept them for what they are.”

That’s what, according to her, free soloing and BASE jumping are all about: to be in control and to trust in one’s abilities. “It’s not about showing off how brave I am. It’s about trusting myself to be good enough not to fall. It takes a lot of strength, both physical and mental. You have to learn to face your fears and accept them for what they are.”

Touchdown. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Steph Davis likes to laugh and she does so a lot. She chooses her words with care, and she doesn’t rush. Why would she? There’s no point in rushing when you’re hanging on a vertical wall, with nothing but your hands and feet. Just like climbing, she prefers to approach things carefully and analytically. That’s how she got as far as she did. “I didn’t grow up as an athlete, and started climbing when I was 18,” she smiles, shrugging. But her work ethic is meticulous and she knows how to improve herself. Whenever she prepares for an ascent, she does so for months, practising each section over and over again – on the wall and in her head – until she has internalised it all. She does the same before a BASE jump and practices the exact moves in her head until she knows the movement is consummate.

Steph loves the orange-gold landscape with its towers and elegantly curved arches of sandstone. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

“Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear.”

Would Steph consider herself brave? She says that she wouldn’t know how to answer that, you can see the small wrinkles around Steph’s eyes that always appear whenever she laughs. In any case, she doesn’t consider herself to be exceptional. “I’m not a heroine just because I jump off mountaintops,” Steph says she has weaknesses just like everyone else. But she might overcome them a little better than most of us do, just as she has learned to work with fear. “Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear. It is brave to accept fear for what it is, as a companion that you should sometimes listen to, but one you shouldn’t be obedient to.”

She slows the car down. We have reached Castleton Tower. It rises majestically in front of us while the sun has left its zenith. If Steph started walking now, she’d reach the top at the moment the sun went down, bathing the surrounding area in a golden light. She takes her shoes and the little parachute; all she needs today. Then she smiles again, says “see you in a bit”, and starts walking. Not fast, not hastily, but without hesitation.

All photos by Jan Vincent Kleine

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