Repatriated, 33 Rote Snake-Necked Turtles from America to Their Natural Habitat

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A total of 33 individual rote turtles [ Chelodina mccordi ] consisting of 25 males and 8 females, were repatriated from the Bronx Zoo, USA. The turtles were taken by plane from America to Singapore then to Jakarta and arrived in Kupang, Tuesday [8/8/2023].

Quoted from  Korantimor, Head of the NTT Natural Resources Conservation Center [BBKSDA] Arief Mahmud expressed his gratitude to the governments of the United States and Singapore for helping to return the rote snake-necked turtle to Indonesia.

Arief said, this repatriation effort is the second. In the first phase, in 2021, 13 Rote snake-necked turtles have been sent home.

“Total 6 male & 7 females.”

Head of Sub-Directorate for Species Preservation and Genetics, Director General of KSDAE, Ministry of Environment and Forestry [KLHK] Bad’ah, said this return was the starting point for conservation efforts and restoration of the rote-necked turtle population in its habitat.

Quoted from  swaratimor, BRIN researcher Dr. Kayat confirmed that the 33 turtles that arrived in Kupang were indeed endemic to Rote Island.

“Before being imported from America, it must be ensured that the genetics are really native to Rote Island.”

Kayat explained, the turtles would undergo treatment in Kupang City for 3-6 months, before being released into their habitat.

“Of the three locations surveyed, only Lake Laedoloe has water quality and habitat that meets the standards.”

Protection of species and habitat

WCS Country Director, Noviar Andayani said, his party supports the government in preserving this wild animal that is the pride of Indonesia and its habitat.

Quoted from  Korantimor, Noviar said, in 2015, WCS identified that the rote snake-necked turtle was included in the 25 most endangered turtle species in the world.

“The lake is also a source of fresh water for the people of Rote.”

Arief added, his party had tried to increase the population of the Rote snake-necked turtle which was kept temporarily at the Animal Quarantine Installation, Kupang.

Rote Snake Neck Turtle & Future

The rote snake-necked turtle [ Chelodina mccordi ] is an endemic species of Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara. This species is designated as a national conservation priority animal through the Decree of the Minister of Forestry Number 57/Menhut-II/2008 in the National Species Conservation Strategic Direction.

The life of this turtle is protected based on the Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry Number P.106/2018. The IUCN defines the status of this Roti Snake-necked Turtle as Critically Endangered (CR). Based on the Turtle Conservation Coalition [2018], the rote turtle is one of 32 species of turtles in Indonesia which are also among the rarest in the world.

Head of NTT KSDA Center Arief Mahmud, explained that initially there were 35 lakes in Rote Ndao Regency which were the habitat of the Rote snake-necked turtle.

However, in 2005 it was recorded that only nine lakes were still the habitat of this species. This number decreased and left three lakes in 2012.

“The lakes are outside the conservation area. This is a long-term conservation challenge,” he explained in a written statement, Tuesday [04/04/2023].

Arief explained, the NTT BBKSDA and WCS-IP initiated the phase I repatriation/return of 13 individuals from the United States through the Singapore Zoo, on September 23, 2021. All the turtles were temporarily housed at the NTT BBKSDA Animal Quarantine Installation [IKH].

“After a habituation process of more than a year, the next stage is  a soft release  to its habitat in Lake Leulu on Rote Island,” he said.

WCS-IP Country Director, Noviar Andayani, stated that his party is committed to increasing conservation efforts for the rote snake-necked turtle.

Change in the lake

To Mongabay Indonesia , Thursday [06/04/2023], Arief said, based on the results of surveys and studies from the NTT BBKSDA, BRIN, the Kupang LHK Research and Development Center, and WCS IP, the potential lake is suitable for the current habitat of the rote snake-necked turtle. there are three. Lake Leulu and Lake Lende Oen in East Rote, and Lake Peto in Central Rote.

In addition, several lakes are very close to community settlements and access is very easy. The potential for disturbance is high if turtles are released in the area.

To overcome extinction, he explained, the solution is to carry out reintroduction to natural habitats. 

“To fulfill this,  an adequate supply  of individual rote snake-necked turtles is needed.”

There is repatriation and also  breeding  or breeding, as well as captive breeding of the NTT BBKSDA, namely  the Quarantine and Breeding Facility .

Rote Snake Neck Turtle is on the verge

The Rote Snake-necked Turtle is an iconic animal endemic to Rote Island and the only member of the Chelodina genus that is outside the plains of Papua-Australia, and has been included in the CITES list.

Under CITES, the Rote snake-necked turtle is listed on Appendix II (trade with quota restrictions) since 2005 and the establishment of zero-quota trade for specimens from the wild since 2013.

The Head of the NTT Natural Resources Conservation Center (BBKSDA) in a release to Mongabay Indonesia, Sunday (1/7/2019) stated that the existence of the Rote snake-necked turtle is important for the ecosystem.

The Rote snake-necked turtle, said Timbul, is one of the 25 most endangered turtle species in the world. Its endangered status is categorized as CR (PEW) or Possibly Extinct in the Wild . Since 2018, the Rote snake-necked turtle has been protected based on Minister of Environment and Forestry Regulation No.P.106/Menlhk/Setjen/Kum.2/12/2018.

Insurance Colony

Wednesday (26/6/2019) became a milestone in the context of efforts to save the Rote snake-necked turtle ( Chelodina mccordi ). After going through a long process of both administrative and technical procedures, the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program (WCS-IP) handed over the Rote snake neck turtle colony insurance facility.

“This conservation enclosure facility is the first step to preventing extinction, returning and preserving these turtles in their natural habitat,” said Timbul.

This facility, which is the first in Indonesia, he said, functions as an insurance (guard) place for the Rote turtle colony which will later be reintroduced into the wild.

Noviar Andayani WCS-IP Country Director to Mongabay Indonesia, Monday (2/7/2019) confirmed that her party was handing over the building which will serve as a breeding place for the snake-necked turtle population imported from Wildlife Reserve Singapore (WRS), Singapore.

The building, said Noviar, will later be equipped with a second building which will function as an information and education center about the conservation of the Rote snake-necked turtle. It is hoped that this captive colony can become insurance or a guarantee so that these turtles do not become extinct in nature.

WCS IP is also working with the NTT Forestry and Environment Service and the Rote Ndao District Government to make the natural habitat of the snake-necked turtle an Essential Ecosystem Area.

The NTT BBKSDA said this was due to over-exploitation, massive trade in the 1980-1990s and land conversion into agricultural areas.

The results of the latest research by the NTT BBKSDA show that only 3 lakes are still suitable as habitat for the Rote snake-necked turtle, namely Lake Leulu, Lake Lendoen and Lake Peto.

Conservation efforts that have been carried out, said Timbul, were population studies in 2005 but failed to find wild species in nature. Conducted the release of 40 Rote snake neck turtles in Lake Peto in 2009 and ex-situ breeding since 2009.

“BKSDA has also initiated a program to conserve the Rote snake-necked turtle in nature since 2016. It has also proposed 3 lakes namely Peto, Lendoen and Leulu to become Essential Ecosystem Areas (KEE) which protect the habitat of the Rote snake-necked turtle,” he explained.

In line with the conservation efforts of the Rote snake-necked turtle carried out by the NTT KSDA Center together with partners and related parties, the NTT provincial government has provided real support through the issuance of a Decree of the Governor of NTT.

Governor of NTT Decree No.204/KEP/HK/2019 concerning Wetland Essential Ecosystem Areas as Habitat for the Rote Snake-Necked Turtle ( Chelodina mccordi ) in Rote Ndao district, East Nusa Tenggara province.

“As a follow-up to this regulation, a Collaboration Forum will be formed whose task is to develop an Action Plan for the Management of the Essensia Ecosystem Area,” said Timbul.

Noviar from WCS IP added that the step that needs to be taken to prevent extinction is to provide comprehensive protection for the three lakes (Peto, Leulu, and Lendo Oen) which are the natural habitat of the Rote snake-necked turtle.

According to him, the government also needs to limit agricultural activities and regulate people’s access to the lakes, so that the water quality and debit of the three lakes are good again to support the lives of these animals.

Noviar also suggested applying social and cultural sanctions that were agreed upon by all members of the community around the lake to comply with the commitment to protect the Rote snake-necked turtle and its habitat.

A thorough survey of the three lakes and water systems on Rote Island that WCS IP conducted with the NTT BBKSDAE team in 2017 failed to find the Rote snake-necked turtle.

Our survey results confirm previous surveys conducted by the Forestry Research and Development team. Even the snake-necked turtle, which was released in 2009 in Lake Peto, was not found when a survey was conducted between 2005-20014 by the NTT BKSDA.

Poaching, which has been rampant and uncontrolled since the 1980s, said Noviar, is the most serious threat to the survival of the Rote snake-necked turtle population in nature.

In addition, the expansion of agricultural activities around the lake which is the habitat of the turtles reduces water quality through pollution and sedimentation which ultimately reduces the survival of these animals.

The Rote Snake-necked Turtle is an endemic species found only on Rote Island. Other Chelodina species, such as Chelodina novaeguineae are found in Papua (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea) and Australia.

Umbu Wulang Tanaamahu Paranggi, executive director of Walhi NTT, said the Rote snake-necked turtle breeding program carried out by WCS-IP up to the repatriation stage was proof of the failure of the NTT BBKSDA.

The first reason, according to Umbu Wulang, was that the Ministry of Forestry released 50 turtles in 2009 and in 2015 no more turtles were found. This means that there is a weakness in the protection mechanism.

“Whatever the reason for the extinction, whether it was the work of collectors or whoever it was, the BKSDA is the government agency that is most responsible for this,” he said.

And the other reason is that the repatriation that BBKSDA intends to carry out must first think about the mechanism for protecting these turtles so that similar things don’t happen again.

According to WALHI NTT, this can be started by maintaining the ecosystem which is the habitat of these turtles. Because basically all the components in an ecosystem are always dependent and influence each other.

“Besides that, one part of the protection mechanism that is no less important is intense monitoring, because this turtle has a Critically Endangered (CR) status,” concluded Umbu Wulang.

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