Conservation of the Endemic Chelonians of Sulawesi

Forsten’s Tortoise

(Indotestudo forstenii)

The IUCN Status

LC Least Concern
NT
VU
EN Endangered
CR
EW
EX Extinct

Sulawesi Forest Turtle

(Leucocephalon yuwonoi)

The IUCN Status

LC Least Concern
NT
VU
EN
CR Critically Endangered
EW
EX Extinct

The challenge

Rare yet neglected 

As part of the Wallacea Biodiversity Hotspot, Sulawesi is home to many species found nowhere else in the world, like the Babirusa, Anoa, Crested Black Macaque and Maleo. While there has been a significant push toward protecting some of these species over the last few years, two species that have received very little attention are the Endangered Forsten’s Tortoise (Indotestudo forstenii) and the Critically Endangered Sulawesi Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi), which are the only two endemic chelonians found on the island. Despite being listed as one of the top 25 endangered turtles and tortoises and considered to be amongst the rarest tortoises in the world, they are not well studied with little known about their basic wild ecology. The current population status for both species is unknown, and previous estimates are based primarily on anecdotal information.

Habitat destruction due to fragmentation, degradation and conversion and illegal poaching for the pet trade, bushmeat trade and for medicinal purposes are the main threats contributing to species decline worldwide.

The goal

An evidence-based approach to saving species 
WRS supports Christine Light from Turtle Conservancy to help answer some of these questions. This project aims to support chelonian conservation, research and community-based awareness and capacity building. This will involve conducting status and distribution surveys, documenting ecological data, and collecting health, forage, physiologic, and genetic samples throughout the range of these understudied species. 

Our Role

Backing the team on the ground 
The WRS funding goes towards supporting field assistants and project staff, as well as field supplies, processing equipment and capacity building materials for the proposed monitoring program. 

The Impact

Raising the red flag for long-term survivability 
By determining status and distribution for both species, the team is working towards ensuring their long-term survivability as they will have a better understanding of the conservation initiatives that need to be employed (i.e. up listed IUCN status, stricter import/export laws, expansion of protected land areas). The resulting monitoring program will create a better understanding of the ex situ requirements for both species that will lead to an increase in breeding and development of substantial assurance colonies for potential reintroduction programs.