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Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 192520218

Population Genetics and Population Status of the Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) in Eastern Africa

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 192520218) - Pancake Tortoise - Awarded $10,000 on May 14, 2019

We aim to conduct a range-wide population survey of the Pancake Tortoise to assess geographic patterns of genetic and morphological variation and to identify potential evolutionarily significant units across the species’ range. Additionally, we propose to update the known distribution of the species by surveying all accessible historic localities in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, as well as potential new locations where suitable habitat occurs. Finally, we will engage in educational outreach in communities near Pancake Tortoise populations to provide information about the unique and threatened species that inhabit their lands and of which they are the natural stewards.

We spent July, 2019, in East Africa. While some of our time was spent in Nairobi, Kenya and Arusha, Tanzania simply navigating the process for obtaining research permits, we also spent time in the field in both countries visiting sites where Pancake Tortoises have historically occurred. We assessed the suitability of available habitat, recorded causes of damage to sites where anthropogenically-induced impacts were evident, and networked with local farmers and villagers in areas where Pancake Tortoises were likely still present. Additionally, we had several very productive meetings that included both the African and American investigators on the project, during which we were able to develop detailed plans for completing the remainder of the field work that this project will require.

Project 192520218 location - Tanzania, Africa