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The Tewksbury Institute of Herpetology (TIH) is being organized as a non-profit corporation 501(c)(3) for the study of captive husbandry and propagation of chelonians with an emphasis on education, public awareness, and self-sustainability.  The TIH plans to establish a largely self-sustaining facility that will serve as one model for the management of threatened and endangered chelonians and other herpetological gene pools.


With the help of local and national universities, interns and volunteers, staff and visiting curators, we plan:














There are currently numerous large private collections of chelonians in the United States. These collections represent the majority of captive unrelated adults of many of the threatened and endangered chelonian species in the world today. Several of these species are believed to be extinct in the wild. The viability and success of these collections as assurance colonies and founder stock is critical to the conservation and survival of many of the world’s species.


The owners of these private collections as well as the curators of zoo herpetology departments are recognizing that significant portions of their collections have outgrown the resources of the facilities in which they are housed. Private keepers are increasingly overwhelmed with the requirements of routine maintenance to the detriment of establishing comprehensive captive breeding programs for more than a fraction of their holdings. Zoos are similarly taxed for space and other resources.


It is essential that these private collections be brought to a more comprehensive level of professional management and captive breeding. It is the structure for such a transition which is being proposed here.


The Tewksbury Institute of Herpetology (TIH) is being formed to address the overwhelming need for a facility in the northeastern United States that can study and propagate these captive populations on larger and more comprehensive scale.


We currently have commitments from 5 large private collectors for the placement of over 1700 chelonia at the TIH. This includes significant adult groups of 12 of the 17 priority species listed by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), 70% of the world’s priority species in one facility, and a total more than 125 full species and 20 subspecies.  The TIH collection at this early stage represents over 40% of the species of all living chelonia.  The goal of the TIH is to form assurance colonies for the species being placed under its care.


We plan to work closely and non-competitively with sister organizations. We feel confident that the need for facilities which stand somewhere between private collections and public zoos is upon us in order to accomplish our conservation goals. We hope to see a network within the next several years of a dozen or more complementary facilities like the TIH which will allow us to diversify and specialize. 


 This is the time to develop and to support innovative approaches to what are commonly recognized problems confronting private and zoo communities, problems of global consequences which need the skills and resources and passions of many disciplines and approaches to achieve our common ends.




The TIH is located on a 50-acre conservation easement in the rolling farmland and horse country of Tewksbury, New Jersey. The site is 15 minutes from Princeton University, 20 minutes from Rutgers University and 55 minutes from New York City. The property includes over 20 acres of cleared meadowland, 30 acres of forest, the terminus of a famous 100-mile horse trail, two streams, three artesian wells and an historic 10,000 square foot dairy barn complex with concrete floors and drainage on the ground floor level and an enormous vaulting former hay loft on the upper level that would easily accommodate a spacious third level mezzanine. The site has ideal exposure for our purposes, facing southeast with a natural wind-break.


The gently sloping meadows of the farm are rich in native wildflowers, sedges, rushes and introduced European grasses with a partial screen of shade trees along the mid-line. A random ten-minute survey on a June afternoon of plants growing within 20 feet of the barn revealed mustard, mint, shepherd’s purse, sow thistle, clover, dandelion, plantains, sassafras, asters, daisies, black-eyed susans, multiple grasses, goldenrod, raspberry, blackberry and mulberry as well as sumacs and native trees.  These species include many prime edible grazing crops for tortoises and several could be harvested for off-season consumption as well. The soil has lain fallow many years; it is rich and healthy with abundant insect life. Towards the north is a rockier incline with excellent drainage that could be converted to a dry hill habitat for Mediterranean and other tortoises.




·        Veterinary Externship Program will include:


o       On site veterinary hospital

o       Veterinary externship program

o       Routine veterinary care and maintenance 

o       Off-site quarantine and protocols


·        Seminar in Chelonian Medicine for Wildlife Rehabilitators


·        Visiting Curator Program


·        Ultrasound Technology and Reproduction


·        Nutritional Studies


·        DNA-Sampling and Taxonomy















The TIH is committed to working closely with other organizations and individuals and to sharing our resources. A partial list of those institutions with whom we are working to develop strategic alliances include:



For further information or to make donations, please contact Maurice Rodrigues, Richard Ogust, or Susan Tiedemann at:   More information will be available on-line in the Fall.  Our web addresses are: and




The goal of the TIH is to form assurance colonies for the animals being placed under its care. We currently have commitments for significant groups of 12 of the 17 “Priority Species” listed by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), representing 70% of the priority species in one facility.


Scientific Name

IUCN Classification*
  • Callagur borneoensis
  • Chelodina mccordi
  • Cuora aurocapitata
  • Cuora galbinifrons galbinifrons 
  • Cuora mccordi
  • Cuora pani
  • Cuora trifasciata
  • Cuora zhoui 
  • Heosemys depressa 
  • Leucocephalon yuwonoi
  • Manouria emys phayrei  
  • Mauremys annamensis   

* NOTE:           Critically Endangered (CR)

                            Endangered (EN)

                            Vulnerable (VU)

                            Lower Risk (LR)

                            Data Deficient (DD)

                            Not Evaluated (NE)


        The TIH Collection includes over 1400 chelonia, a total more than 117 full species and 20 subspecies. The TIH collection represents over 40% of all living species of chelonia, of which 34 are listed as endangered by The World Conservation Union (IUCN), eleven of which are critically endangered. The number of species on the endangered list is increasing on a yearly basis, and the rarity and importance of this collection will only increase over time.

Return to The Complete Chelonian Taxonomy

or: - World Chelonian Trust


World Chelonian Trust

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Vacaville, CA


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