Siebenrockiella leytensis is listed on CITES Appendix II and is nationally protected int he Philippines by virtue of the Republic Act 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act), the violation of which carries heavy penalties, including imprisonment. The species occurs in several protected areas in the Palawan, which is crucial to its persistence. Assurance colonies have been established since 2007 under the Philippine Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program (PFTCP) implemented by Katala Foundation Inc., with S. leytensis as the flagship species for conservation in the Philippines. Released individuals from confiscations have undergone rehabilitation monitoring since 2015 (Devanadera et al. 2015, Schoppe et al. 2016). Various conservation projects have been implemented since 2006 as a part of the Philippine/Palawan Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program in Palawan. A captive population has been established for breeding, but captive breeding has not yet been successful, neither under the PFTCP nor elsewhere.
Radio-tracking studies have provided important information on the home range and movement patterns (Schoppe and Jose 2013, Jose et al. 2013). Yet, further research is needed to identify its home range, movement patterns and reproduction.
Siebenrockiella leytensis is endemic to the Philippines, and was recently established to be restricted to the Palawan island group in the western region of the archipelago. The species does not occur on Leyte Island as previously believed and this misconception has been attributed to a mislabelling of the type specimens (Diesmos et al. 2004, 2008, 2012; Schoppe et al. 2010). The species is presently known only from the northern regions of Palawan Island and on the island of Dumaran at elevations below 300 m asl. Its extent of occurrence 1,495 km2 (S. Schoppe pers. comm. 2018).
The species has historically been considered to be extremely rare owing to erroneous information about the type locality (Diesmos et al. 2004, 2012). Since the discovery of a naturally occurring population on Palawan, data suggest that the species is common in streams in undisturbed forest, but is rare or extirpated in highly degraded habitats and areas of high human population. Field surveys revealed a decreasing trend in abundance even in pristine habitats, particularly where turtles are heavily collected (Schoppe et al. 2010). Estimated adult density based on repeated 14 day mark-recapture surveys were 206±188 individuals per linear stream hectare in the period of 2007–2014. Alarmingly, surveys during the period of 2015–2018 undertaken in the same site produced 78±90 individuals per hectare (S. Schoppe unpub. data). The results reveal a mean decline of 72% in populations of adult turtles in the last ten years. The reported high densities of turtles is attributed to the generally small area of habitat that is utilised by these turtles.
The greatest threat to the Palawan Forest Turtle is exploitation for the illegal wildlife trade. Habitat loss and degradation are also major threats. Conversion of swamps to rice fields, timber poaching, mining, quarrying, charcoal making and slash-and-burn farming practices are responsible for severe degradation of critical habitats, particularly of the lowland forest (Anda and Tabangay-Baldera 2004, Schoppe et al. 2010, Diesmos et al. 2012). As with many turtle species, Siebenrockiella leytensis is locally consumed, and is utilised in traditional medicines.
IUCN Red List Account LinkPlease click here to see the species' IUCN Red List Account page.
Roland Wirth (category image)
Katala Foundation Inc. (featured image)