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Forsten's Tortoise (Indotestudo forstenii)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 162512780

Conservation of the Endemic Chelonians of Sulawesi: Forsten’s Tortoise (Indotestudo forstenii) and Sulawesi Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 162512780) - Forsten's Tortoise - Awarded $10,000 on January 25, 2017

Although rich in herpetofauna diversity, Sulawesi is home to only two endemic chelonians, the Endangered Forsten’s Tortoise (Indotestudo forstenii) and Critically Endangered Sulawesi Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi). As there has been no previous research or conservation efforts focused on these species, their population status is based primarily on anecdotal information.  Combined with severe habitat destruction and current and historic collection for the pet and bushmeat trades, these species could be facing extinction.  Furthermore, neither species is listed as protected within Indonesia, thus adding to the urgency of this project. 

We have partnered with Bogor Agricultural University (IPB), West Java and Tadulako University (UNTAD), Central Sulawesi to conduct population surveys for these species.  By determining status and distribution, we can work toward ensuring their long-term survivability as we will gain a better understanding of the conservation initiatives that need to be employed (i.e. uplisted IUCN status and CITES listings, stricter import/export laws, increased local protection, identification of parcels of land for expansion and/or creation of protected areas) and can lobby and advocate for these changes.  Survey results will initiate community-based monitoring programs to determine home range, daily activity, foraging and reproductive behaviors and ecological requirements of the species. This program will create a better understanding of the ex situ requirements which can contribute to captive breeding efforts and the development of substantial assurance colonies for reintroduction programs.  Concurrently, we are developing an in situ captive breeding program with UNTAD.  This partnership provides a platform for education and outreach, allows for the opportunity to track and study a population of released turtles as an on-campus research and training project and the opportunity to build assurance colonies.  We are also establishing community awareness and educational programs at local universities, schools and in communities to promote a positive perception toward the conservation of these species and their habitats. 

Initial population surveys were conducted from March to April 2018.  We identified and processed two populations of L. yuwonoi in two distinct localities.  Intensive surveys were also conducted for I. forstenii, but no tortoises were found.   

The next survey trip is scheduled for October to November 2018.  As we have yet to identify any I. forstenii, we will continue to intensively survey and employ additional local guides to assist.  We will begin a radiotracking study on a subset of the population of L. yuwonoi identified during initial surveys. We will also continue to work on a strategic plan for the in situ captive breeding program, which will be developed on University-owned land within the Central Sulawesi Province.


Project document