In Memoriam of TSA Europe Chair Henk Zwartepoorte

In Memoriam of TSA Europe Chair Henk Zwartepoorte

by Ron de Bruin on December 07, 2016


On October 28, Henk Zwartepoorte died unexpectedly while on holiday in Australia. He was 67 years old. Henk was a passionate leader in the turtle conservation community. Because of his friendly and approachable nature Henk had an extensive network of people involved in turtle care, biology, and conservation around the world. Henk started his career as an animal caretaker in the Rotterdam Zoo, where he later became curator of the reptile and amphibian collection. Under his guidance, the Rotterdam Zoo became a leader in reptile and amphibian breeding and conservation.

Henk has been involved with the TSA since its foundation in 2001 in Fort Worth, TX and he was chairman of TSA Europe.

In 1994 Henk initiated the Dutch Studbook Foundation, aimed at conserving threatened chelonians and other taxa. His efforts to promote breeding programs resulted in the adoption of studbooks by several European countries, which lead to the creation of the European Studbook Foundation, of which Henk was the president from 2003 until 2016. He strengthened the link between the European Association of Zoos, Aquaria, and the European Studbook Foundation. This contributed to bridging the gap between zoos and private keepers, both of whom could participate in the studbooks.

Henk was a tireless promoter of conservation philosophy. He was involved in many conservation projects around the world and played a pivotal role in distributing chelonians that were seized by authorities around the globe.

After his retirement from the zoo two years ago, Henk started with the realization of his dream, the ReHerp Foundation (, an organization that cares for and breeds highly endangered reptiles and amphibians with the aim to eventually reintroduce them to their original habitat in cooperation with the local population. Unfortunately, he will never witness the completion of the ReHerp facilities in the beginning of 2017.

Henk was not just an icon in his field of expertise, he was a good person with high moral standards and above all, a nice guy.

We will miss him incredibly in all his various capacities. On behalf of the TSA Europe I want to wish his wife Mary strength to bear this great loss.

We will all miss Henk.

Ron de Bruin


Photo credit: Rob Doolaard, Rotterdam Zoo

Hans Dieter Philippen obituary

Hans Dieter Philippen obituary.


The shock was great. May  9 this year very unexpected at the age of 58 our Turtle Survival Alliance Europe vice chair Hans Dieter Philippen passed away. Very peacefully in his sleep. May 13 he was cremated and May 21 his ashes were buried at the Bergerbos cemetery in the Netherlands.

Hans Dieter always lived close to the Dutch boarder and by a lot of Dutch turtle keepers he was sometimes called “an almost Dutchman”.

The TSA Europe not only loses one of her vice chairs but also a very dedicated turtle conservationist.

October 20, 1984 I met him for the first time at a meeting of the Dutch Turtle and Tortoise Society at the Rotterdam Zoo. That day a 32 years long personal friendship began. During the 80ties he guided us to a increasing number of German, Austrian and Swiss turtle keepers and breeders. We visited zoos together and he was a very welcome guest at the Rotterdam. He was advisor for the European Association for Zoos and Aquariums, advisor for the European Studbook Foundation and since 2002 TSA Europe vice chair.

Hans Dieter had the ability to bind people. He did that in a charmy, friendly and co operative way.

His knowledge on fauna and flora was tremendous; he was a living encyclopaedia. Besides that he built up a large library of books, magazines and other references. You never got a “no” for an answer when you asked him something.

On his memory card was written:

There are people in the world,

Having the gift,

To find friends everywhere; and

The best thing a person can leave behind,

is a smile on the face

of those who remember him.

The reptile and amphibian keepers community lost an icon.

Although he is no longer with us he will never be forgotten. His name will endlessly be connected to what we all share the love for animals.

And when we remember him we will indeed do with a smile.

Our condolences go to his wife Elke Grünwald and his family. We wish them strength.


On behalf of the TSA Europe board

Henk Zwartepoorte, TSA Europe chair.

Philippines Crisis

Our message today is so urgent, and so important to the continued survival of a critically endangered species, that we are jointly requesting your help alongside our friends at the Turtle Conservancy, Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, and the Turtle Conservation Fund.

8945 euro raised so far

Yesterday, authorities in Palawan confiscated more than 4,000 turtles just before they were shipped out from their native island in the Philippines. More than 3,800 of them were endemic Philippine Forest Turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis), a species that exists only in a small range in the northern end of Palawan. This number exceeds our current understanding of the existing wild population, and it will take years to comprehend the effects of this massive, highly coordinated poaching event.

The future of the Philippine Forest Turtle is hanging in the balance, or more appropriately, a warehouse in Palawan, and we need your support to help these turtles now!

More info:


The in 2005 founded conservation society ARCO (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation) is concerned with amphibian and reptile conservation and to collaborate with ARCO-Nepal reg. Soc., with universities, zoos and breeding partners. We accept, as far as possible, surplus stock of specimens with origin from mediterranean climate types like North-America, S-Europe, North- and South-Africa. or from any desert provenance of the world. Advice in maintenance and serious husbandry projects for keeping amphibians and reptiles in captivity is given to all members on request. Construction and maintenance of natural ponds or suitable habitat structures can be planned and realized. We accept animals from custom confiscation and other official partners as far as space and possibilities allow and a certain amount of “unwanted or out grown” animals. Furthermore, it is intended to function as a satellite breeding institution for circum-mediterranean terrapins and tortoises as well as to promote herpetological knowledge. Its main objective of activity is the support of a reptile conservation project to give a refuge for unwanted, confiscated, animals not belonging to the local autochthonous Spanish herpetofauna. The ARCO society is intended to arouse interest in the actual problems and the planned measures. Talks, events and publications will inform members, but also interested nonmembers and guests, on project development, progress of official and practical conservation measures. Seminars and guest lectures are intended to arouse interest in this field of knowledge. Conservation work and breeding has already started successfully but should still be intensified and widened in collaboration with local and international partners. ARCO welcomes all interested persons and, of course, new members. With your annual membership one can contribute for food and for maintenance of the husbandry or breeding station in an adequate mediterranean climate and habitat. The turtle conservation project needs a lot of idealism, engagement and recruitment of new members. It is a long-term enterprise with a great aim. Membership comprises free entrance, consultancy and advice for local habitat constructions. We can provide information for the conservation of your semi-natural pond life, husbandry and we might take your animals during periods of vacation or for good in case of patronage granted. We cannot accept any specimen not adopted under international regulations (CITES) or being against local laws. Become a member and you can contribute to saving private pet specimens not becoming a potential hazard to the local autochthonous fauna but as a member also contributing to the work of ARCO-Nepal reg.soc. ( Student programs or practical work can be realized mainly in spring till summer and even accommodation can be provided if so desired. You are welcome to become a member for a long term project and to contribute with idealism, ideas or only a mere economical membership or donation. Ponds, semi-natural terrestrial enclosures need proper and correct treatment and maintenance, food supply and others to find the animals in favorable condition. An annual membership is cheap but a necessary contribution to the work of ARCO. We are not charging any entrance fee but expect from nonmembers some donations from each visitor for the sake of our conservation, maintenance and education work.

The ARCO (Amphibian Reptile COnservation) Spain project in Tabernas is home to a number of freshwater turtles and tortoises. Some of them are endangered. The centre is also involved in confiscated tortoises from the north Africa region (Testudo graeca). Between October 23 and 28 TSA Europe guys Matthew Swallow, Andrew Lewis and Henk Zwartepoorte will do some adjustments on enclosures as well as some improvement. Especially for the winter period some species need shelter and also small tortoises need protection from predators like foxes, rats and marders. Building materials such as cement, sand, glas, bricks and plywood need to be bought locally. Financial means are limited. The TSA Europe is kindly request to donate to these building costs.
We thank you on behalf of the animals.
Henk Zwartepoorte, TSA Europe chair.