Book Review: The Tortoise (magazine)

TC The TortoiseThe Tortoise: A Publication of the Turtle Conservancy (, Volume 1, Number 1, 2012, 160 pages, $25.00.

Late last year, the Turtle Conservancy published the inaugural issue of The Tortoise, “a magazine dedicated to the appreciation and conservation of tortoises and turtles and their habitats.” The Turtle Conservancy is the nonprofit scientific and educational organization behind the Behler Chelonian Center, an AZA-Certified turtle and tortoise conservation facility in southern California that acts as a hub for research and conservation around the globe, and as a breeding facility and assurance colony stronghold for at-risk species. There on the center’s lush mediterranean grounds, more than 650 individuals representing some 28 species of endangered turtles and tortoises are cared for and bred in a gamble against the possible extinction their cohorts face in the wild from habitat loss or collection for the food and pet trades. And these are just some of the species featured in the debut issue of The Tortoise.

From Madagascar’s ploughshare tortoise to the Pinta and Floreana tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, The Tortoise features thirteen stories by Turtle Conservancy associates in the trenches with the world’s dwindling chelonian populations. The stories vary from accounts of the turtle and tortoise trade (“Widely Endangered and Widely Available”) to glimpses of the Turtle Conservancy’s many projects (“The Bolson Tortoise”) to swan songs for species on the brink (“The Geometric Tortoise, Quietly ‘Slipping’ Into Extinction”).

Reading The Tortoise cover to cover, two articles stood out of the crowd. In “Turtle Soup for Dinner”, Peter Laufer, author of Forbidden Creatures: Inside the World of Animal Smuggling and Exotic Pets and The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists, reflects on his introduction to turtles and tortoises as he explored the worlds of the animal trade and obsessive collectors. In “On the Track of the Volcan Wolf Tortoise”, renown herpetologist Peter C. H. Pritchard explains the important role genetics can play not only in understanding the distribution of species in an island system, but also in rediscovering the genes (and on occasion the individuals) of species presumed extinct in the wild.

Although it isn’t clear whether The Tortoise will be an annual, quarterly, or – less likely – a monthly periodical, the breadth and scope of the magazine is promising. With little exception, nearly every photograph was worthy of a high-end coffee table book. The full and half page spreads, as if each story were part photoessay, gave the photography top billing. With so much backing this endeavor, I look forward to future issues in the hope that by broadcasting their message under The Tortoise‘s banner, the Turtle Conservancy’s work to conserve the world’s turtles and tortoises will succeed.

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  1. #1 by on March 11, 2013 - 9:06 am


    Dear Mathew,

    Will you be doing a review of “The California Naturalist Handbook”?

    We will probably be using it for our Calaveras River Natural History project for Friends of the Lower Calaveras Curriculum we have launched.

    Dr. Dirt. (XXX) XXX-XXXX

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