The BONNER AWARD
The Bonner Award is an annual award that recognizes expertise in long-term husbandry and captive breeding of Asian turtles. This award is presented each year at the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group’s TURTLE NIGHT at the National Reptile Breeders Expo. The Bonner Award is presented in the hope that all Barb did to advance the knowledge of veterinarian care of Asian turtles and her independent and pioneering spirit will be remembered.
BONNER AWARD RECIPIENTS
Dennis Uhrig by Dave Lee
Dennis Uhrig is a well-known turtle breeder and conservationist. He has been keeping turtles since 1962 when he found a Spotted turtle in New Jersey near his Aunt's home on Palm Sunday. Dennis moved to Florida in 1978 and began constructing outdoor enclosures in his backyard. Dennis presently has 72 ponds housing 110 species. Dennis successfully bred 53 species in 2003. Dennis says, "What started out as a hobby has now become much more. Having enjoyed turtles nearly my entire life, other turtle hobbyists and I, working with the ATC, can now do something to help the turtles. By using our hobby as a conservation tool we can work toward returning threatened and endangered turtles to their native habitats." Dennis has 24 species of Asian turtles and has successfully bred 16 so far. Some of the interesting species breeding on a regular basis in Dennis's ponds are Cuora trifasciata, Cuora flavomarginata, Chinemys nigricans, Chinemys megalocephala, Mauremys annamensis, Mauremys mutica kami, Melanochelys trijuga thermalis, Melanochelys trijuga coronata, Siebenrockiella crassicollis, Sacalia bealei and Heosemys grandis .
Walter Allen by Dave Lee
Walter B. Allen, turtle hobbyist extraordinaire and owner of the Casa de Tortuga turtle sanctuary, is the Asian Turtle Consortium's Barbara Bonner Award winner for 2004. Mr. Allen rescued his first turtle in the mid 1960s, and hasn't seen a turtle he doesn't like since. In 1978, he moved from Santa Monica to Fountain Valley, California for more space and built a separate house for his growing turtle collection (about 800 animals and 100 species). For more than 25 years Mr. Allen gave tours of his property to elementary school groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, and others six days a week. In addition, he adopted sick and unwanted turtles from owners that no longer could and/or would take care of their animals. Mr. Allen and his Casa have been featured on TV shows including Ripley's Believe or Not and numerous other media outlets worldwide.
“Walter Allen was unique. We can all agree on that. He was also eccentric. I once tried to describe his eccentricity to a film cameraman who was shortly to meet him, but after the meeting occurred the cameraman complained that I had not properly warned him as to just how eccentric Walter was. Walter was also a kindly person, entirely without malice. I never met anyone who disliked him. And Walter really did love turtles.”
Peter Pritchard - * From An Appreciation: Walter Allen 1926-2007 in the Tortuga Gazette, Nov/Dec 2007, 43:4.
Bill McCord by Russ Gurley
Dr. McCord is a veterinarian, owner of the East Fishkill Animal Hospital in Upstate New York, turtle researcher, taxonomist, and one of the most passionate turtle people I have ever met. As with most of us, his love of turtles began early. He started making money as a kid, cleaning turtles for a neighborhood lady who kept turtles as pets. Over his lifetime, Dr. McCord’s collection has grown into one of the largest in the world and includes some of the rarest species, several of which are found nowhere else in private collections. Dr. McCord is actively involved in the identification of new species and is currently working with John Cann in Australia to describe several new species of side-necks and snake-necks from John’s part of the world (Australia and Indonesia). Dr. McCord is the author of many articles and books and has been involved in several creative projects related to the conservation, care, and identification of turtles. He received his degrees at S.U.N.Y., Delhi in 1970, Cornell U. in 1972, and Purdue U. in 1978.
Elmar Meier (Germany) by from www.iucn.org
With more than 30 years of experience in breeding turtles, Elmar Meier is one of the world’s leading experts on the captive breeding of turtles. Being aware of the massive consumption of millions of turtles in Asia for medicine and food and the increasing destruction of their natural habitat, he anticipated the population crash in many species. In the 1980s and early 1990s, he established a specialized private collection and dedicated his spare-time to develop a method for successful breeding of Critically Endangered species which are aggressive and susceptible to stress.
“I devised a method of reducing social stress by keeping individuals singly and introducing sexual partners only for mating, and have achieved some first-ever European and world breeding successes” Elmar proudly recalls.
So far, Elmar has been able to breed 24 different turtle species regularly, three of which have already been bred in the second generation.
After this successful development of the breeding method, Elmar felt obliged to establish a breeding programme on a larger scale, integrating both private reptile specialists (who have the knowledge to breed many difficult species and can provide valuable founder individuals for breeding programmes) and zoological institutions (which provide the necessary background and organisational structures).
Initial plans for such a broader conservation programme seemed to be feasible when Münster Zoo and the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP) became interested in the project. An agreement has been reached whereby Elmar Meier makes his private animal stock availabe to the conservation programme and promises to continue taking care of turtles and managing the breeding programme in his spare time. Thus, the International Centre for Turtle Conservation at Münster Zoo, Germany, was initiated and operations started in October 2003.
The first offspring have been transferred to Rotterdam Zoo, Chester Zoo and the Zoological Society of London, and further individuals will be distributed to other facilities as assurance colonies.
“The intitiative can claim to be unique and significant for the survival of several Asian turtle species,” says Elmar, “including the red-necked pond turtle (EN), the yellow-necked box turtle (CR), the Indochina box turtle (CR), the Arakan forest turtle (EN), and the four-eyed turtle (EN) amongst others.”
In addition to his work on the maintenance, breeding and conservation of turtles, which includes several publications, Elmar is also responsible for a broadly planned landscape approach to nature conservation project, with the European tree-frog as a flagship species for the preservation of threatened species in the Westphalian farmed landscape.
Vic Morgan by Vic Morgan
“My interest in reptiles started when I was very young growing up in Jacksonville, Florida near the St. Johns River. I explored during summers off from school and even though my parents were not “animal people”, they never discouraged me. I attended many of the early SSAR meetings and took a tour of US zoos in the 1980s, which aligned me with zoo keepers and reptile dealers. I kept a collection of colubrids, pythons, and venomous snakes and I became an avid field collector during this time. This time outdoors helped meld the knowledge of behavior of reptiles and amphibians with keeping them in captivity. Along the way there was always a turtle pen with box turtles or a pond with snapping turtles. During these early days, I enjoyed keeping and breeding Jacksons chameleons and other species which were labeled “difficult to produce in captivity”. On impulse, I bought a pair of Black Mountain tortoises in December of 1988 just to see if they were “nearly impossible to keep alive” as they were labeled. I allowed them to wander around my land on their own and to pick the location they wanted. They settled in under some pine trees in front of my reptile house. Would they live or dwindle away like so many imports did at that time? Well, these tortoises became my obsession and in the years to come they not only settled in, but thrived and reproduced. I decided to expand the size of their enclosures and started holding on to babies and growing them up. Now I have a hundred or so Manouria at any given time including some second generation offspring. All this from catching some anoles and toads as a child. It could only happen in America.”
Amanda Ebenhack by Russ Gurley
Amanda Ebenhack has been rehabilitating turtles and tortoises for 11 years. She is a permitted wildlife rehabilitator in Florida, specializing in native Florida Gopher tortoises. Together with her veterinarian, Dr. Orlando Diaz of Lake Howell Animal Clinic, they rescue, rehabilitate, and release between 100 and 500 turtles and tortoises each year.
She is also a board member of the Asian Turtle Consortium, a board member and director of adoptions for Turtle Homes Rescue, a member of the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group, and president of the Central Florida Wildlife Center. Amanda’s first book, REDFOOTS & YELLOWFOOTS: The Natural History, Captive Care, and Breeding of Chelonoidis carbonaria and Chelonoidis denticulata was published in 2009.
In 2009, Amanda was honored with the Barb Bonner Memorial Award. The Bonner Award is presented each year by the Asian Turtle Consortium at the National Reptile Breeders Expo and is given in recognition of expertise in long-term husbandry and captive breeding of turtles, especially Asian species.
Amanda lives with her husband, James Ebenhack, on five acres where they maintain a small private tortoise rescue and sanctuary.
Ray Ashton by Rebecca Eagan
Florida lost a treasure March 11 when tortoise hero and field zoologist Ray Ashton lost his fight with a grave illness. Although it often takes time and distance -- and loss -- to realize the worth of a man's imprint on the world, Ray's legacy may match that of Archie Carr. Ashton's and his botanist wife Pat's collaborative work, The Natural History and Management of the Gopher Tortoise, is the bible for keeping this imperiled species alive -- and a recipe for upland conservation.
His research was groundbreaking -- tortoise communication by low-frequency sounds would have soared right over our heads had Ray not placed sonic monitors in their burrows. So much about their food plants and life needs would still be obscure -- leaving them in greater likelihood of extinction -- absent Ashton Biodiversity Institute's meticulous work.
We who worked with him know this research pioneer played a nonstop ambassadorial role promoting not only tortoise survival but workable ways to sustain the beautiful ecostructure of our state, while helping agricultural landowners retain financially viable use of their land.
He could operate in many mileus: a "regular guy" who also happened to be brilliant, trail-blazing, creative, and humanitarian -- and never, never lost sight of the conservation goals and procedural excellence he insisted upon in state rulemaking vis-à-vis the tortoise, or of his love for -- as he put it to me once -- "the beauty of it all," meaning the grandness and mystery of nature that led him to his field. He was, to use a now-dog-eared expression, "the full package."
The day my friend died, a gopher tortoise in my backyard -- a dry land animal if ever there was one -- sat atop his burrow apron in the pouring rain, head held high, in salute to the patron saint of his race, Ray Ashton.