Review of 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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