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Critically endangered Roti Snake-necked Turtles sent from Singapore to native Indonesia

Critically endangered Roti Snake-necked Turtles sent from Singapore to native Indonesia

A close up photo of a Roti Snake-necked Turtle. (Photo: WCS Indonesia Program)

SINGAPORE: Thirteen critically endangered turtles belonging to a species not seen in its natural habitat since 2009 have been "successfully" sent from Singapore to their native country of Indonesia, the first repatriation of its kind.

The move took place in September 2021 and marks a "significant milestone" in conservation efforts for the recovery of the wild population of the Roti Snake-necked Turtle, said Mandai Nature, Singapore Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society - Indonesia Program (WCS-IP) in a joint press release on Wednesday (Jan 19).

The Roti Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi) is one of the 25 most threatened freshwater turtle species in the world and is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as "Critically Endangered". The turtle is native to Roti Island in East Nusa Tenggara province, where it has not been seen for more than a decade, leading researchers to believe it may be extinct in the wild.

Prior to their return, the turtles had been held in Singapore Zoo which houses the only assurance colony for the species in Asia. The assurance colony was established in 2015 and the turtles came from breeding programmes in the United States and Austria, the press release said.

Assurance colonies are used to house critically endangered or threatened animals in captivity to prevent the extinction of these animals.

The 13 turtles have "settled in well" at a breeding facility in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara province since their arrival, said Mandai Nature, Singapore Zoo and WCS-IP.

The aim is to raise the turtles from egg development to later life stages under human care and eventually reintroducing young turtles into their native wild habitats.

"Such programmes help to increase the chances of survival of individuals released into the wild. The turtles will hence form part of the first structured conservation breeding programme located in Indonesia," the press release said.

"Conserving the Roti Snake-necked Turtle is important to sustain people's livelihoods on Roti Island. Protecting the lakes for the habitat of this species also means maintaining water supply on this arid land," said Dr Noviar Andayani, WCS-IP's country director.

The conservation efforts were led by Indonesia's Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Balai Besar KSDA Nusa Tenggara Timur (BBKSDA NTT) Province with the support of Mandai Nature, Singapore Zoo, and WCS-IP.

Source: CNA/fh(ac)

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