Elongated Tortoise’s Conservation Status Changed to Critically Endangered

Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) is now changed from endangered to critically endangered on The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

The concern was shared by Mr. Michael Meyerhoff, Country Director of Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) based in Siem Reap province.

"The change in the conservation status is due to the decline across its range by at least 80 percent in the last 90 years (three generations) for habitat loss reasons alone, and has additionally been extensively and intensively exploited for consumption and export trade. Up to now freshwater turtles and tortoises are globally one of the most threatened vertebrate groups with more than 50 percent of all species in the world with around 360 species in total and 14 species in Cambodia facing extinction," Mr. Michael Meyerhoff told the AKP via telegram recently.

Fortunately, ACCB started the breeding project of the Elongated Tortoise, one of the most endangered tortoise species in Cambodia in 2013, he pointed out.

Currently, there are around 500 individuals of nine native species of turtles and tortoises with 300 of them are Elongated tortoises alone in ACCB and we have bred 73 baby elongated tortoises in 2018 and 35 baby tortoises already hatched in 2019 after the first heavy rain, he added.

In Cambodia, the Elongated Tortoise suffers a lot from habitat loss and illegal trade, even though this species is protected by Cambodian law, Mr. Meyerhoff said, adding that it has precisely posed a huge conservation threat towards already highly critically endangered turtles and tortoises while the merit release practice also shares a threat to the decline of this species.

According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Elongated tortoises (Indotestudo elongata) are highly distinctive with their elongated shells and inhabit forests in South and Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, they have been recorded in the eastern and southwestern Mekong Plains as well as in the Cardamom Mountains. These terrestrial reptiles are under intense pressure due to over-harvest for food and the pet trade.

Typically, Elongated tortoises are around 30 centimetres long and 3.5 kilogrammes as an adult. Females tend to be wider than males and more rounded. Males also have a tail that is much larger than that of the female. The males have a concave plastron while the plastron of a female is flat. Additionally, the female's posterior claws are markedly longer and more curved than those of the male. It is believed that this is to facilitate nest building.

Cambodia's wetlands are home to other threatened turtle species as well, such as the endangered yellow-headed temple turtle (Heosemys annandalii) that has been encountered on a WWF-led survey of the Mekong mainstream north of Kratie, as well as the Royal Turtle known as the Southern River Terrapin (Batagur affinis). This national reptile of Cambodia was originally thought extinct in the country until a population was rediscovered in Koh Kong province in 2000. A protection and captive hatching programme is now underway to save this tiny remnant population.

ACCB has been working closely with related government ministries and institutions as well as some organisations to protect wildlife from illegal trade. Founded in 2003, ACCB is located on an area of 14 hectares at the historical site of Kbal Spean, about 40 kilometres north of Siem Reap provincial city. The centre houses more than 630 animals of over 40 species and around 90 percent of them are threatened, endangered and critically endangered.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press