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Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 12252443

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 12252443) - Yellow-headed Tortoise - Awarded $8,000 on March 15, 2012

The Yellow-headed tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) lives throughout southeast Asia. The species inhabits areas near a water source such as a stream. This study aims to investigate the ecology of the yellow-headed tortoise within the The Rajaji National Park in India located 250 km north of Delhi. The park is bordered by major Himalayan rivers such as the Yamuna in the west and Ganga in the east; the Doon valley to the north and the north Indian plains to the south. 

Conservation Status
The Yellow-headed Tortoise is listed in the Appendix II of CITES and is listed in the Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972). This species was identified as a species in need of conservation action at a workshop for a five year conservation planning for freshwaters turtles and tortoises in India organised by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA). It is not known to what effects livestock grazing have had on other small ground dwelling animals such as the Yellow-headed Tortoise.

Project Objectives
The overall objective of the project is to collect detailed ecological information on the Yellow-headed Tortoise Indotestudo elongata that is critical to the long-term conservation management of this poorly known species.

Interim Results
Since initiation of the study in June 2012 a total of 75 tortoises have been captured (38 males, 27 females and 10 juveniles). Of these, 42 tortoises were captured during the 2012 season and 24 (19 male and 5 female) of these were recaptured during intensive field work from March 2013. These recaptures where made at the same site where they were first captured, suggesting site-fidelity. One research student along with two local assistants searched for tortoises mainly along the first order streams in the area. They spent 90 days trekking to different parts of the Park and covered a total distance of 1300 km in search of tortoises. Like in 2012 season, the number of tortoises captured was highest during June 2013, which is the driest month.

We attached radio transmitters to three tortoises (2 male and 1 female) and were tracked between June to August 2013. One male was tracked for a period of 70 days after which it was lost. This particular male moved up and down the first order stream where it was first located and covered a straight line distance of approx 3000 m and had a home range of 8.5 ha. In the case of the other male tortoise, the transmitter attachment failed to adhere and had to be removed after few days. The female tortoise tagged was lost within 12 days.

We collected few tortoise droppings and it contained fruits of Dyospyros melanoxylon, Cordia dichotama, and Fig sp. On two occasions we also observed tortoises feeding on the carcass of a Sambar deer.

Project 12252443 location - India, Asia