2020: Another Step Forward

Dear Friends,

Volunteers and Volunteer Staff pause for a distanced group photo while conducting Wood Turtle Research
Volunteers and Volunteer Staff pause for a distanced group photo while conducting Wood Turtle Research.
It would be safe to say that 2020 has not gone how any of us expected. Yet, that did not stop conservation, education, and research from happening around the world, including at theTurtleRoom (tTR). In spite of the economic hardship many have faced during 2020, you, our loyal supporters, have continued to bless us with your generosity, allowing us to grow and expand our efforts and be prepared to do the same in 2021.

This is not to say there were not setbacks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our exciting new collaboration with African Chelonian Institute, Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves, the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, and the Abidjan Zoo to launch a new effort with Kinixys homeana (Home’s Hinge-back Tortoise) in Azagny National Park, Cote D’Ivoire was delayed by a year. The Spring season of our Pennsylvania Wood Turtle Population Monitoring project was canceled and planned trips to scout for future conservation and research projects were also postponed. The first major fundraiser we were planning in June, 2020 had to be canceled.

TheTurtleRoom's Casey Leone, Field Project Manager for the Terrapin Conservation Initiative and one of her daughters
TheTurtleRoom’s Casey Leone, Field Project Manager for the Terrapin Conservation Initiative and one of her daughters.
Yet, in spite of these obstacles, we close 2020 on extremely solid footing, and have many successes of which to be proud. Your steady giving, along with a grant from the Turtle Conservancy, enabled theTurtleRoom to expand our Terrapin Conservation Initiative in New Jersey from one site to three. Even with coronavirus restrictions limiting volunteers, we were still able to tag many new terrapins, half at the new sites. Hatchling releases totaled nearly 1000. Our Pennsylvania Wood Turtle Population Monitoring project, in collaboration with the Turtle Survival Alliance, also added another site that shows great promise for a sizable population of Wood Turtles to monitor and from which to collect data.

In our Education Department, we began developing a project in partnership with a school in Connecticut where students would learn about the biology, husbandry, and conservation of turtles and tortoises. We hope that as this project finishes development post-pandemic, that it can serve as a model for other similar partnerships. The development of educational content continued to grow in 2020 with an increased flow of blog content, educational social media content, and more episodes of The Pondcast produced in a single year than ever before in its history. Both on our blog, through our “Kudos To…” series, and on social media, through our “Turtle Conservation Warrior” campaign, we celebrated individuals who have impacted our lives and the field of turtle conservation and education. Also brand new in 2020 was an audio-only podcast titled Turtley Devoted, which focuses on the peculiarities of a life dedicated to turtles and its impact on those around us. Our Education team also grew in 2020, and we expect that to reap dividends in 2021, with more online content created in a single year than ever before at theTurtleRoom.

Hatchling Coahuilan Box Turtle, hatched at theTurtleRoom by Chris Leone
A hatchling Terrapene coahuila (Coahuilan Box Turtle), one of this year’s many offspring produced by Chris Leone of theTurtleRoom.
Our Animal Husbandry Department had great success in 2020. We took one step closer to a successful hatching of Leucocephalon yuwonoi (Sulawesi Forest Turtle) with one egg that fully developed, but died just days before hatching. Successful hatches by theTurtleRoom and our individual Volunteer Staff member’s personal efforts were recorded from more than 30 species, including: two more Heosemys depressa (Arakan Forest Turtle), two each Sacalia belaei (Beal’s Eyed Turtle) and Sacalia quadriocellata (Four-eyed Turtle), three Cuora mouhotii obsti (Southern Keeled Box Turtle), three Geoemyda japonica (Ryukyu Black-breasted Leaf Turtle), three Kinixys spekii (Speke’s Hinge-back Tortoise), four Cuora pani (Pan’s Box Turtle), five Cuora amboinensis kamaroma (Malayan Box Turtle), five Cuora galbinifrons (Indochinese Box Turtle), five Geoemyda spengleri (Vietnamese Black-breasted Leaf Turtle), five Rhinoclemmys melanosterna (Colombian Wood Turtle), six Astrochelys radiata (Radiated Tortoise), six Indotestudo forstenii (Forsten’s Tortoise), seven Indotestudo elongata (Elongated Tortoise), seven Malacochersus tornieri (Pancake Tortoise), eight Cuora flavomarginata (Yellow-margined Box Turtle), eight Geochelone platynota (Burmese Star Tortoise), nine Cuora bourreti (Bourret’s Box Turtle), nine Kinixys homeana (Home’s Hinge-back Tortoise), twelve Testudo graeca armeniaca (Araxes Tortoise), 18 Testudo kleinmanni (Egyptian Tortoise), 28 Terrapene coahuila (Coahuilan Box Turtle), 100 Testudo hermanni hermanni (Western Hermann’s Tortoise), and 103 Glyptemys insculpta (Wood Turtle).

Adult Pancake Tortoise at theTurtleRoom
An adult Pancake Tortoise, part of the assurance colony at theTurtleRoom in partnership with Turtle Survival Alliance.
New acquisitions included the transfer of four more male Coahuilan Box Turtles, bringing our total adult group to seven males and three females. We also received one female Sulawesi Forest Turtle on loan from our partner, the Turtle Survival Alliance. The biggest addition is another new partnership with the Turtle Survival Alliance, where we received a loan of three male and 20 female Pancake Tortoises at Garden State Tortoise. After they completed extensive testing and were determined to be free of various infections, these animals were placed in a habitat constructed to be as natural as possible. This habitat even includes a kopje, a rocky outcrop where these unique animals like to hide. This partnership and the story of these specific tortoises is highlighted in this year’s Turtle Survival magazine, including a full spread image of their amazing habitat, as constructed by Chris Leone, our Director of Animal Husbandry.

While we don’t yet know what impact the COVID-19 pandemic will play in 2021, theTurtleRoom is already planning for the development of new initiatives and new collaborations in all three of our departments: Education, Field Programs, and Animal Husbandry. Also in 2021, we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary and we plan to celebrate our 10 years of positive impact on turtles and tortoises through the entire 2021 calendar year!

Two of theTurtleRoom's staff taking head measurements of a Wood Turtle
A Bourret's Box Turtle in its egg.
An adult Wood Turtle posing for a photo

We are excited to continue to have you by our side as we move forward together to conserve these beloved shelled creatures. To find other ways you can get involved with theTurtleRoom, please visit https://theturtleroom.org/get-involved. For questions about anything related to theTurtleRoom or its education and conservation efforts, please contact our President and Executive Director at [email protected].

With gratitude and celebration,

Steve Enders, President and Executive Director

Anthony Pierlioni, Vice President

Lisa Enders, Treasurer

Casey Leone, Secretary

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