Greenhouse Expansion Project 2020

The expansion of Turtle Island’s greenhouse has been no small task!

Two years ago, Turtle Island underwent a large expansion project, renting out 250m² of greenhouse space in order to accommodate an extra 300 turtles. Since then, many endangered and vulnerable turtles have settled into their new homes in the greenhouse, where we are able to keep them happy, healthy and support the breeding of these rare animals.

Most of the endangered turtles that live at Turtle Island come here out of necessity. Across the world there is a huge market for the illegal import and export of turtles; as there is for many other species. The smuggled turtles are often discovered and confiscated at border controls by state officials, where they are then taken to local rescue centres to await transportation to conservation centres with space and facilities for them. Due to the way that animals are usually smuggled, the time and conditions of travel, the quantities of individuals involved, and the fact that their origins in the wild are unknown, it is not often possible to release these animals back into their natural habitats – or at least, not immediately.

Currently residing in the Wild Animal Rescue Centre in the Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden in Hong Kong are many turtles confiscated by Hong Kong’s AFCD, originating from South-East Asia, China, Nepal and Madagascar. It is suspected that many of these were smuggled in to be sold in the international pet trade. Of these, 60 individuals, of mainly Critically Endangered Species (from the IUCN Red List) will soon be coming to live at Turtle Island. For this reason, among others, Turtle Island has this year expanded the greenhouse area once again to add an extra 250m² of greenhouse space. This will help to accommodate the new arrivals.

In addition to the 60 confiscated turtles, the new area allows us to receive 28 individuals from Taipei Zoo to breed in our centre, as well as giving the animals that we already have more space, and creating areas for the offspring of our current breeding projects to grow.

The expansion has permitted the installation of a 55,000-litre pool to be added to the greenhouse, which will allow breeding space for five (two males and three females) Southern River Terrapins (Batagur affinis) which Turtle Island will soon be receiving from Prague Zoo. These turtles were confiscated after being smuggled into Europe as juveniles in the early 2000’s and were subsequently raised to maturity by Prague Zoo. Of special interest to Dr. Peter Praschag, the Batagur affinis used to be classified as the same species as the Batagur baska. In 2009, Peter split the sister taxa into two separate species following morphological, ecological and genetic studies on these Asian turtles. The realisation of the differences between these taxa has only made the conservation of these species even more urgent, and so Turtle Island is keen to give the animals the environment they need to breed in our conservation centre.

The expansion of Turtle Island’s greenhouse has been no small task. The staff and volunteers at Turtle Island have been working around the clock to create the environments needed for the wide variety of turtles. Large pools and aquarium tanks have been purchased and installed, in addition to other structural components to create the spaces required. So far, the project has cost 25,000€ for materials alone, with rent, power and transport of the animals in addition. This is a huge project that will play a large role in the continuation of many critically endangered species. It will allow them to breed and hopefully enable future generations to make their way back into the wild, and thrive once again.

The input of work and support that we have had throughout this project has been amazing, but we still need to put in the final push. The finishing touches for our new vivariums will include the purchase of filters, heat lamps, aerators and other bits and bobs. Due to the additional COVID crisis this year many projects were put on hold and our budget has been stretched further than expected. Because of this, we are looking to raise the additional 7,500€ ($8,500) to be able to finish our expansion and welcome our new tenants.

To continue with this vital work, we are looking to fundraise for the costs of this expansion project and its continued success.

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