Rote Island Snake-necked Turtle

The Rote Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) is one of 32 species freshwater turtles and tortoises in Indonesia and considered one of the world’s rarest turtles (Turtle Conservation Coalition, 2011). However, it is not protected according to the Government of Indonesia Regulation Number 7 Year 1999, even though the species is listed as being Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and considered as a national conservation priority by the Ministry of Forestry Decree Number 57/Menhut-II/2008 on National Strategic Direction on Species Conservation.

There are three proposed subspecies: C. mccordi roteensis in eastern Rote; C. mccordi mccordi in the southwest of Rote; and, C. mccordi timorensis in Timor Leste. The subspecific designations need to be analyzed genetically to determine their validity. The Rote Island snake-necked turtle inhabits small, shallow, eutrophic inland lakes, swamps, marshlands and adjacent agricultural rice paddies and fields.

However, this exotic species faces danger in their population. Intense hunting for C. mccordi during the 1980s and 1990s along with habitat loss (especially wetland conversion to rice fields) caused the rapid decline of the species. Since 2005 – now, many researches have been conducted to find the species in its natural habitat, but can’t find the species. In the face of these immense threats, WCS has developed a set of powerful strategies to restore turtle populations.

What we do

  • Determine the status of the Rote Island snake-necked turtle in the wild and its habitat quality using direct surveys. WCS conduct intensive field surveys in putative C. mccordi habitat across Rote Island to inform whether it is extinct in the wild. 
  • Determine the rural socio-economic conditions and current threat level for C. mccordi and actions to mitigate threats. WCS, will therefore, engage with all of the relevant government agencies, especially with KSDAE (Ministry of Environmental and Forestry, national level) BBKSDA NTT (provincial level) and district governments, to effectively communicate the purpose of the project, elicit support, and meaningful participation. 
  • Identify possible locations for reintroduction efforts using a habitat viability analysis. To determine the suitability of potential release locations for reintroductions, WCS will examine the key components for candidate sites, using field data, literature review, and GIS analyzes.  
  • Conduct a genetic analysis of captive C. mccordi stock and any remaining wild individuals to determine validity of subspecies designation.  
  • Reintroduce C. mccordi in Rote island. WCS will bring back the turtles from Bronx zoo and Singapore zoo to the Rote island. 
  • Long-term population monitoring In order for the project to be evaluated on an annual basis, it is important that we resample the habitats each year. This is important for our ability to use adaptive management tools for adjusting not only our head-start and soft-release program but also our captive breeding program.