The Wonderful World of Chelonians

The British Chelonia Group (BCG) has existed for nearly 40 years, but what is a chelonian? Is it:

1.  A resident of the Chelsea area of London

2.  A smaller version of the cello

3.  An order of reptiles including turtles, tortoises and terrapins

The correct answer is, of course: “3. An order of reptiles including turtles, tortoises and terrapins” and that is why BCG and the Galapagos Conservation Trust have such a long and successful working relationship.

Wildlife, Green Turtle ©Patricia Zarate

The Galapagos giant tortoise is one of the most iconic species found on the islands but has been threatened since humans set foot on the archipelago in the 16th century. Once upon a time there were many species of giant tortoises roaming across the continents, but once human population began to expand they became a very easy food source and the vast majority of species became extinct. Except, that is, the species on small islands where humans were yet to reach. Today, the last two remaining locations for giant tortoises are Galapagos and the Seychelles. Another chelonian species with special links to the Islands is the Galapagos green turtle, the only turtle to lay eggs on the beaches of Galapagos.

Galapagos giant tortoises are the focus of our current Lost Years Appeal. Funds raised through the appeal will be put towards a project which aims to shine some light on the years following a tortoise hatching from its nest. Once we are able to understand the lifecycle of these gardeners of Galapagos, we will be able to better manage the environment to ensure their migration routes are protected as well as their breeding and nesting sites.

Wildlife, Giant Tortoise (c)Christian Ziegler

The chelonian taxonomic order encompasses all species, extinct and living, of turtles, tortoises and terrapins. The British Chelonia Group was created as a way of ensuring owners of chelonians in captivity, be it zoos, private collections or household pets, were receiving suitable information and guidance in the husbandry and care of their animals. In its 39 year history the group has grown substantially and today has 16 regional offshoots from the parent organisation. Additionally they have expanded their remit to include supporting conservation projects across the globe where chelonians are at risk.

The group has two upcoming events which we are delighted to tell you about. Firstly their 2015 Spring Symposium which is being held on Saturday 14 March in Milton Keynes. The theme for this year is “Chelonia and man” and we are delighted that our very own CEO, Ian Dunn, has been asked to present a talk about our Lost Years Appeal. Tickets are available to book through the BCG website.

They will also be hosting the 14th Cheshire Tortoise Day on Saturday 16 May. This day focuses on the educational and veterinary aspects of keeping chelonians. All tortoise enthusiasts, vets, zookeepers, conservation professionals and families are welcome to attend and bring their animals with them, where specialists will be on hand to offer advice on welfare and provide basic health checks, as well as micro chipping and various other diagnostic tests.

We hope that members who are interested in these events will attend, or if you know anyone who may be interested please spread the word as they are sure to be very interesting days.

by James Medland