Dear Mr Langton
Owing to the extreme personal animosity and bias shown towards myself and my
wife (and members of the Gloucestershire and West Midland Committees) this Saturday
last (22/02/03), we were not able to express, or have fully answered the questions
I had prepared about Carapax from the Gloucestershire region. This was no doubt,
in part, an intentional strategy.
We saw the Tape along with most of the West Midlands committee at a Christmas party, and, fortified with seasonal cheer, were looking forward to being convinced by the Carapax project. We were all horrified by what we saw.
I would suggest that, prior to the demands from Mrs Fenwick to destroy the embarrassing evidence in the videotape of this Carapax trip, of which I believe you have a copy, that you carefully watch it yourself. You should be looking for three aspects in particular.
In the first, Mr Ballasina is clearly heard to be explaining Carapax policy towards tortoises received from the public. He states quite openly that those Spur-Thighs handed in from the public that have RNS are euthanased, to protect the Carapax herd. One BCG member, listening to this, is seen to turn away in utter disgust.
Another disturbing scene, showing close shots of the terrapins in the lake, reveals a dead terrapin being ravenously cannibalised by several others. I have kept and bred terrapins for 27 years, and can assure you that terrapin is not the natural food choice for terrapin, and they can only be doing this if they are totally starved.
Finally, I would suggest that you consider the state of the water in the lake. It was mud brown, and full of sediment. No water plant life would be able to grow under such conditions, requiring sunlight and clear water to release oxygen into the water to sustain pond life. As a result, small fish life (a terrapins natural food) would be minimal. We have been told however, that the terrapins will not be fed during certain parts of the year, and they would be expected to forage from the natural resources. There appears to be none, and also no likelihood of any developing or growing. In addition, the density of these animals being perhaps a hundred times greater than in the wild, any food material found in the lake must be considered an unsustainable resource.
My 25 large terrapins are fed 110g of food three times per week. For 4,000 terrapins this would require in excess of 48kg (106 lb) per week. To distribute this to the terrapins evenly, bearing in mind that each terrapin only has a surface area of 75cm square each, it would require a boat. I am not assured that any of this is being done, and that any discrepancies in the feeding regime must account for the signs of starvation in the UK terrapins (which, note, are freshly arrived, and many, presumably, still with good energy reserves).
My six-year experiences maintaining the Secret World Education Centre are quite
graphic. In that time we took in 96 terrapins from the public. Kept in warm,
shallow tanks for the most part, their acclimatisation to an exterior pond (at
my house), even in the middle of summer was poor. Inexperienced in sunbathing
to maintain digestion levels, and suffering shock from their change in ownership,
they treated the slightly cooler water conditions as Autumn, and failed to feed.
In small batches of six or eight, with plenty of individual care, respite time
in my indoor ponds for those cases losing weight, they were slowly trained for
life in a seasonal pond (this took from 3-6 months). Many died within weeks
of arrival, from heart failure, (due to the unaccustomed exercise), and drowning
(inexperience in deep water). Others, weakened by a combination of these factors,
contracted infections and died. Those that did make the eventual trip to Secret
world still steadily vanished (although, as my reports at the time suggest,
as no corpses were ever found, and the Secret World staff reported few deaths,
escape and/or theft must be considered as possibilities). Acclimatisation was
clearly hard for these terrapins, but the records showed quite clearly, that
for every year that each terrapin survived, their survival became more assured,
proving the success of the scheme. Only 38 remained alive at Secret World in
the summer of 2002, when the project was effectively closed.
For the above reasons, I do not believe that the Louisiana project could be as successful in keeping terrapins alive as at Secret World. Indeed, one might reasonably expect the death rate to be doubled without the ability to weigh; measure and health check the terrapins on a regular basis. This, scaled up to Carapax, suggests a minimum of 400 deaths per annum, and more realistically, this figure could be nearer 600-800 animals. The pure environmental disaster from that many rotting bones and carcases in the lake, a breeding ground for bacteria, will in itself hasten the deaths of many others, already weakened by stress and starvation.
The image in my mind of 300 or so UK terrapins making the yearly trip to this lake, or a similar one, once (if) built, reminds me very sadly of the endless cattle trucks full of Jews entering the gates of Auschwitz, never to return. Secret world was never considered to be a solution to the terrapin problem, sadly, Carapax is…. THE FINAL SOLUTION.
You have always seemed to study projects carefully, before lending your influence to them. You have not done so in this case. The political need to be seen to be spending big bucks with a private European animal institution, along with holidays in the sun, seems to have overridden common sense and the fundamental aims of the BCG. I know that there are plenty of voices in the BCG also questioning Carapax.
Everyone now knows how those questions, and those people will be squashed. Shame on you all, and may God forgive you.
Paul and Maggie Coleman