Turtle Tuesdays: Turtle Conservation Across Borders

Written by Patricia Koval, Partner at Torys LLP and former Chairman of the Board at WWF-Canada
People often ask me why I love turtles. To be perfectly honest, I think I was just born with it. There has never been a time in my life that I haven’t been passionate about wildlife and conservation – which is why I am so proud to support WWF, along with other organizations that are focused on turtles.
My turtle Tuesday story starts with an Asian Box Turtle named Tinker. He lived a long and happy life in my care – 26 years, in fact! In that amount of time, I was shocked to find out that the wild population of Asian Box turtles had fallen drastically, landing them on the endangered species list. I became very interested in how and why that happened, and in my research came across the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA).

Patricia Koval holding a turtle at Kukrail Centre © Alan Koval
Patricia Koval holding a turtle at Kukrail Centre © Alan Koval

The TSA is a US-based charity that operates field programs throughout India, Southeast Asia and Central and South America, focusing on conserving the most endangered species. Habitat loss and the pet and meat trade threaten turtles in these regions. Many are even sold (illegally) in Canada – proof that conservation issues can cross many borders.
My job as a corporate finance lawyer takes me to India two to three times a year, where I have the opportunity to see TSA’s India projects firsthand. I am now Chairman of the TSA board and am very excited about our most recent project: the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina. There we will house what we call ‘assurance colonies’ for 20 out of the 25 most critically endangered species worldwide! As proof that TSA is able to keep and breed these incredibly endangered animals in a safe and scientifically-valid manner, our Big-headed Asian Turtle – incredibly difficult to breed in captivity – laid four eggs just last week!
I am also co-chair of the Board for the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Center, a Canadian charity that operates a turtle hospital in Peterborough. Along with treating and rehabilitating wounded turtles (mainly from car strikes) and raising hatchlings for release in the wild, we engage in field research and education programs to help conserve and protect wild turtle populations. This work is critical because seven of the eight Ontario turtle species are at risk.
Close up of a Blandings turtle (Emydoidea blandingii).  Blanding turtles are listed as threatened species in the province of Ontario © Nicole RICHARDS / WWF-Canada
Close up of a Blandings turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), a species that is Threatened in Ontario, and Endangered in Nova Scotia. © Nicole RICHARDS / WWF-Canada

I was a Board member of WWF-Canada for 12 years, including my four year term as Board Chair. During that time, I was also involved with WWF-Canada’s important species work for Canadian turtles, including the work done by a number of recipients of WWF-Canada grants. I still work with and support WWF-Canada, and am happy to know that the organization is funding more important turtle work.
I am very hopeful that the hard work and passion we commit to turtles all around the world will create a bright future for these amazing and incredibly important creatures.
To find out more about what you can do to help turtles, check out our list of suggestions found here.