Zero Extinctions, One Pump At A Time

Published on June 26, 2017

turtle in Halsip's hands
The Turtle Survival Center has a variety of ponds for the turtles to thrive, from 7,000 gallons up to 30,000 gallons, that it wanted to improve.

When you think of turtles, you might typically picture a cute reptile that you once had as a pet, saw in a zoo, or accidentally caught on the end your fishing line. But, there is much more to these creatures than meets the eye. Turtles have been roaming the water and earth for nearly 220 million years, making them one of the oldest species and one of the few to outlast the dinosaurs. They are essential to our ecosystem, helping clean up the environment as aquatic scavengers. And yet, more than 50 percent of the 330 species alive today is threatened with endangerment. Turtles are the most endangered group of vertebrates on the planet, and mankind is one of their primary threats.

Enter the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA). Established in 2001, this nonprofit organization’s mission is to transform their passion for turtles into effective conservation action through a global network of living collections and recovery programs. Or as they summarize it: to achieve zero turtle extinctions.

In 2013, the TSA opened its first U.S.-based conservation center called the Turtle Survival Center in Cross, South Carolina, near Charleston. This world-class center features a greenhouse, a veterinary clinic and many indoor and outdoor enclosures to house some of the rarest turtles on earth and help breed them, with the end goal to reintroduce them into their natural habitat. The Turtle Survival Center houses nearly 650 freshwater turtles and tortoises, including 21 of the world’s 25 most critically endangered species. As with any nonprofit, funding is a constant challenge, so several partnerships help to maintain the operations. Recently, Nathan Haislip, the facilities manager and lead keeper of the Turtle Survival Center, identified a need for water pumps to improve the enclosures for a number of their turtles. Previous pumps failed to withstand the rugged application or simply were not appropriate for an aquatic environment. Then, he came across Franklin Electric and the Little Giant brand of water pumps as a potential fit for all the center’s needs. So, he made a call.

“Once we saw the global impact that the Turtle Survival Alliance is having on the environment, we felt an instant desire to contribute to the cause,” said Andy Schoenberger, portfolio manager for Franklin Electric and the Little Giant brand. “This campus provided a multitude of applications that fit our pumps, from circulating water with our water garden pumps to an evaporative cooler solution provided by our sump pumps, which is now keeping a containment area cool and ideal for the turtles. We recognized this partnership as an excellent opportunity to showcase the broad application of our pumping systems in the harshest of applications and join a conservation movement that has global roots and brings value to everyone.”

Little Giant Pumps Assist in the Global Conservation Movement

The Turtle Survival Center had a variety of ponds that it wanted to improve, from 7,000 to 30,000 gallons.“The water quality of our ponds was not optimal for most of the turtles,” said Haislip. “The murkiness and buildup were getting out of control because the previous pumps couldn’t hold up. We focus on providing stress-free environments for the turtles, whether it be in natural enclosures simulating the wild or even ponds and waterfalls simulating the rivers and streams of their natural habitat. To continue to do so, I needed pumps that could keep up and handle the job.”

sump pump turtle pond
12 Little Giant F-Series Pumps were donated as an energy efficient, flexible, and safe way to create a more natural habitat for some of the most endangered species in the world.

Franklin Electric provided 12 Little Giant F-Series Pumps to tackle the job. “We chose the F-Series because these multipurpose pumps provide the flexibility that the center needs,” said Schoenberger. “Their wet rotor technology is energy-efficient, and they can be used submersed or externally — mounted either vertically or horizontally. They are built to move a lot of water, run continuously when needed and hold up in almost any application. And they are environmentally safe, which is crucial for this application.”

While on-site, another application for a different Franklin Electric pump was identified. The Turtle Survival Center utilizes a greenhouse for certain species based on their climate needs. In this greenhouse, an evaporative cooler provides cool air to both the turtles and vegetation inside. However, the former pump was not adequately providing the large volumes of water continuously to the cooler. The Little Giant 6EC Sump Pump was shipped next-day to the facility. Within minutes of installation, the evaporative cooler was back up and running properly.

“Our partnership with Franklin Electric is extremely exciting,” said Haislip. “The overall flexibility of the Little Giant pumps is ideal for the various applications where we need water pumped on-site. Almost no matter the application, we can quickly grab the pump and run it to the location — this is ideal when you have the lives of some of the most endangered turtles in the world at stake. Additionally, since we wear many hats here, anything that saves us time goes straight back to the turtles. For our habitat ponds, the F-Series has cleaned them up and created a more suitable environment for the turtles. The output and ability to handle small debris and particles are both big for us.

Turtle eating berry
Turtles are the most endangered group of vertebrates on the planet.

It’s definitely doing the job, even given the wear and tear we put on the pumps. I love the ease of cleaning with the outside basket cover. And, the fact that these pumps are not oil-filled is huge. The oil-based pumps that we’ve used were not as safe — they often needed maintenance or burned up quickly. We haven’t had that problem with the Little Giant pumps. The pump they provided for the evaporative cooler has worked exactly how it was supposed to. It took a few short minutes to install, and we were back in business.”

The Brutal Extinction Reality

According to the TSA, turtles and tortoises face a higher extinction risk than any other highly endangered vertebrate group. “The extinction issue is due to a variety of wide-ranging problems,” said Ilze Astad, director of development for the TSA. “Turtles face some of the usual threats, like habitat loss and habitat alteration, but they are also impacted by more concerning threats like food markets in some countries. They are a delicacy in some cultures, and people pay big money to put them on the dinner table. Pet trade is also common. In the 1990s, residents in some countries started breeding turtles in order to get albino or unnatural colors. Naturally, the pet trade can become an issue, because many people are not educated about how to care for them. And then there have been many cases of malicious acts by people who simply hate reptiles. In truth, without the TSA, many species would be wiped out by now.”

Global Efforts Making a Positive Impact

A lot of the TSA’s work is conducted overseas in climates that resemble the environments to which the turtles are most accustomed. Currently, the organization is active in eight countries, with a history in 15 countries. In these countries, the TSA does not own the centers, but instead helps to provide the funds necessary to maximize the life cycles of these endangered turtles and tortoises. The TSA also relies heavily on its partnerships for funding, support, expertise and overall dedication to the same cause.

Sump pump installation
The Little Giant 6EC Sump Pump now feeds a greenhouse evaporative cooler to provide a more natural environment for both turtles and vegetation.

“The TSA is made up of an amazing network,” said Astad. “It has organized a diverse alliance, including zoos, aquariums, universities, conservation organizations, government authorities, turtle facilities, veterinarians, private breeders, serious hobbyists and turtle-rescue organizations to help move otherwise doomed, illegally-traded, or confiscated turtles and tortoises into programs designed to prevent their extinction. Because of this network, we are often able to intercept malicious operations and confiscate these turtles, either introducing them back into the wild immediately or breeding them appropriately until they are ready to be reintroduced.”

The TSA has become world-renowned for being the driving force behind turtle conservation. In 2015 alone, it rescued about 8,000 endangered turtles. During some confiscation efforts, and especially in flood markets, unknown species have popped up, providing hope that yet another type of animal can be brought back to its natural habitat. Having the Turtle Survival Center in the United States offers one location where all the world partners can bring their turtles and count on them for support.

“This is the last saving grace for some of these species,” said Haislip. “If all else is failing, we are that ray of hope. Our network provides amazing support, so they trust us with their animals. Most zoos struggle to provide adequate space for such large populations needed for assurance colonies, so we are that single location with the goal of building healthy, genetically-diverse, self-sustaining captive populations for many turtle and tortoise species that currently have little or no chance for survival in the wild.”

“Upon our arrival at the center, our eyes were truly opened by the necessity and beauty of these animals,” said Schoenberger. “I don’t think most have truly seen how amazing these creatures are and the value they bring to the world. If we can help protect an endangered species with our products, we are happy to join the cause.”

You Can Help

The TSA is a 501c nonprofit organization that raises all funds through donations and partnerships. Those who donate are contributing to rescue and captive breeding centers, community awareness and outreach, poacher conversion workshops, reintroduction and recovery programs and response to crises around the globe related to the wildlife trade. For more information about the TSA or to donate today, visit

— Byline: Sarah Baum, Franklin Electric

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>> More information on the Turtle Survival Alliance’s Programs

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