Turtle conservation and halfway technology: what is the problem?

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title

Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration, and Management of Tortoises and Turtles -- An International Conference


New York Turtle and Tortoise Society

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First Page


Last Page



How we define a problem often will predetermine what we are willing to consider as a viable solution. Thus, when we define the impending extinction of a turtle species solely in terms of there being too few turtles, we seek solutions based solely on increasing the numbers of turtles. Hatcheries, headstarting, and captive breeding programs all may provide observable increases in turtle numbers while they are in our care. However, successful repatriation or augmentation programs are extremely unlikely unless the original causes for a population’s decline have been addressed. Hence, some of our attempts to conserve turtles may involve “halfway technology” in that they do not address the causes of nor provide amelioration for the actual threats turtles face in their natural habitats. In the final analysis, turtles need clean and productive aquatic and terrestrial environments in which to thrive. Without a commitment to such long-term ecological and evolutionary goals, our efforts to protect and restore turtle populations will be futile. Instead of designing conservation programs that rely on perpetual crisis management, we must, as Stephen R. Covey admonishes us, “Begin with the end in mind.” The end result of our conservation efforts must be to establish (or reestablish) self-sustaining turtle populations in healthy habitats.

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