Pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 13257804
Pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) is an East African Endemic species of land tortoise that in Kenya is known to have its distribution scattered discontinuously from northern Kenya southwards through eastern to south eastern Kenya at an altitude ranging between 440-1540m above sea level (Malonza, 1999, Malonza, 2003; Spawls et al, 2002), mainly in the unprotected areas. Being a rock crevice dwelling species, it is restricted to rocky outcrops in isolated kopjes in its range of occurrence.
Populations of this species occur mostly in fragmented habitats outside protected areas. The species is listed in CITES appendix II and although currently listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of threatened species, threat levels have been noted to be high calling for its uplisting to a higher category in the Redlist of threatened species. The habitat for the species is rapidly deteriorating in extent and quality and the species currently exists in conspicuously low numbers. Because of their nature to live in rock crevices, Pancake tortoises rarely survive whenever there are bush fires when clearing land for farming as shifting cultivation is still practiced in South-Eastern Kenya. In addition, illegal over-collection for pet trade is an activity that still goes on.
Towards effective conservation for the species, the project addressed the following objectives:
1. To map the current distribution and assess the conservation status of Pancake Tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) in Kenya
2. To identify as many suitable habitats as possible for the Malacochersus tornieri and endeavor to create collection free conservation blocks for the species in its range in Kenya.
3. To reduce strain on the habitats and incentive to collect the Malacochersus tornieri by educating the local communities on importance of conserving the species and helping them to identify and get involved in eco-friendly means of income generation.
4. To help identify and jump-start the community based tortoise conservation initiatives through sustainable alternative sources of livilihoods for the local communities.
Courtesy of the generous support from MBZ species conservation fund, this project became a great success. A distribution map for M. tornieri was generated; the conservation status assessed; threats to the species identified and the local communities were sensitized on the conservation needs for the species. To help them reduce their strain on the natural habitats and the species, alternative sources of livelihood were identified, and bee keeping initiative launched as a pilot project. It is our hope that these efforts will bear good fruit towards successful conservation of M. tornieri in the Kenya, now and in the future.
NB: Detailed project report with figures and photos can be read in the document uploaded in this website.
Project 13257804 location - Kenya, Africa