About the Conference and Proceedings

November 1997 — A remarkable group of ecologists, conservationists, land managers, governmental officials, and policy makers representing 25 nations gathered in July 1993 at Purchase, New York, to attend a conference devoted to the conservation, restoration, and management of tortoises and turtles.  Offering just a glimpse of the troubled conservation status of the world’s 270-plus species of tortoises and turtles, the 80 papers and summary reports (as well as abstracts of presented posters) included in the proceedings represent the combined effort of more than 130 authors and 35 reviewers.

Proceedings Cover      In the four years since the gathering of the 230 delegates and attendees at Purchase, this volume became more than simply documentation of that event.  Nearly all of the 82 papers presented at the conference were submitted for inclusion in the proceedings, most were subsequently updated by the authors to reflect current field data wherever possible, and all were peer reviewed.

     The material in this 494-page volume is organized by the major subject areas presented at the 1993 conference and roughly corresponds to the daily sessions of the meeting:  Direct and Indirect Threats to Habitat; Direct Losses to Populations — Disease, Predation, and Human Exploitation; Breeding, Repatriation, and Relocation; Applications of Demography, Ecology, and Genetics to Conservation; Status Reports; Species Recovery and Management Strategies; Reserves and Programs; and Integrated Management Strategies and Public Policy.  Abstracts of the presented posters appear in a separate section.

     Of the conference and the proceedings volume, Peter C. H. Pritchard, author of the Encyclopedia of Turtles, makes the following observations:

     “Four years have passed since the epochal turtle conservation conference at the State University of New York in Purchase in July 1993.  Since that time, as John Behler has observed, the moniker ‘Purchase’ has entered the lexicon of cheloniology as a major event of lasting impact.  It was my honor, as an officer of the Chelonia Institute, to be intimately involved with the editorial process that led to the published proceedings of the conference, and in the process I was struck by several things:  the extraordinary quality of the individual contributions, the improvements and enhancements of scope that took place between the verbal presentations and the final written submissions, the prodigious volume of editorial effort necessary to bring the mass of contributions into a coherent single volume, and the truly global and impressively interdisciplinary nature of the entire effort.  Together, the papers in this volume lay the groundwork for what one might call a theoretical basis for the science of chelonian conservation, an exercise that has never been attempted before.”

Review of the Proceedings from The Vivarium, Vol. 9, No. 6, p. 30
Book Corner

Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration, and Management
of Tortoises and Turtles—An International Conference

     Do you own a turtle or tortoise?  If you’re like us, you admire their carapace designs and personable attitudes, are challenged by their requirements for husbandry, and gratified by reproductive successes.  Now may be time for those of us who fill the ranks of turtle and tortoise aficionados to look beyond the horizon of our turtle tanks and tortoise pens, and consider chelonians on a global scale.  There is no better place to start than here, with this Proceedings.

     This book of almost 500 pages is a compilation of papers from a 1993 conference and represents a joint effort of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Turtle Recovery Program.  The 77 papers presented here have been updated (to 1997) with new information and all were peer reviewed.  Topics include threats to habitats, direct losses to populations, breeding and repatriation programs, applications of various biological sciences to conservation, status reports from regions all over the globe, species recovery and management strategies, specific reserves and programs, integrated management strategies and public policy.

     Whether it’s learning about the illegal trade of pancake tortoises (Malacochersus tornieri) in Tanzania, results of sustainable exploitation of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) in Canada, or efforts for captive breeding of the large softshell (Aspideretes gangeticus) in India, the articles are well written and packed with useful information.  Reading this book, however, won't leave you with warm and fuzzy feelings.  Its a sobering look at the status of chelonians worldwide, and how humans in this century have impacted this most unique and ancient group of reptiles.  In his introductory “Troubled Times for Turtles,” John Behler observes that “. . . our 270 [species of chelonians], as a consequence of burgeoning human numbers and their insidious activities, are facing the greatest challenge of their evolutionary history.”  The threats to declining populations of turtles and tortoises include massive habitat loss, collection for domestic and foreign food markets, introduced diseases, and severe climatic changes as well as collection for the pet trade.  This book provides in-depth coverage of the exploitation of turtles and tortoises, and the ongoing efforts of those attempting to fix the problem.

     The book might be considered at first glance to be expensive, but for the price of a hatchling Geochelone sulcata the owner of this Proceedings gains an in-depth understanding of chelonian status globally, and takes a step toward helping these reptiles meet their “greatest challenge.”

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