Indonesia is to receive a number of snake-necked turtles, which are endemic to Rote Island in East Nusa Tenggara, from Singapore.
The “repatriation” is to be conducted through a reintroduction program run by the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program (WCS-IP) and Wildlife Reserve Singapore.
The turtles, which are to be shipped to Indonesia in the next couple of months, have been bred by organizations in a number of countries, including the United States and Austria. Some 26 individuals bred in the US and Austria are now being kept in the Singapore Zoo. However, how many of those are to be sent to their natural habitat in their ancestral home is still under negotiation, Timbul Batubara, the head of the East Nusa Tenggara Resource Conservation Center (BBKSDA), said on Saturday.
The species, called the Roti Island snake-necked turtle, is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list and is categorized as critically endangered. Roti Island is another name for Rote Island.
The species can no longer be found in its natural habitat in Peto Lake on Rote Island. Their extinction there has been blamed on "overexploitation" and the conversion of the natural lake and its surroundings into farmland, Timbul said.
The repatriation of the 26 from Singapore is to be the first of several, he added. It was not clear how many more individuals of the species are spread all over the world.
“We will conduct several phases of the repatriation from the various different sources, such as from [North] America and Europe,” Timbul said as quoted by kompas.com.
“We expect that the repatriation can be conducted before this year ends,” he added.
Snake-necked turtles are known for their strikingly long necks, so long that they cannot withdraw their heads all the way back into their shells. The turtles belong to a relic group of a species once distributed across Australia, New Guinea and Rote Island, according to the website of a global conservation initiative, the EDGE of Existence.
“The major threat to this species is that it only occurs in three separate populations on Rote Island, with only 70 square kilometers of available habitat,” the EDGE said, adding that the species continued to be targeted for the pet trade and individuals fetched a high price. (vny)