Conservation ActionsChelodina mccordi has beeen listed in CITES Appendix II since January 2005, with a zero export quota for Indonesia for specimens from the wild since June 2013. The Turtle Conservation Coalition (2011, 2018) has identified the species as one of its top conservation priorities and has twice listed it as one of the Top 25+ turtles most likely to face extinction in the near future. The Turtle Survival Alliance, European Studbook Foundation, Turtle Conservancy, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and Nordens Ark have all targeted C. mccordi for ex situ captive breeding efforts, and various assurance colonies have been established in the US, Europe, and Singapore, with good ongoing results and successful captive breeding (Zwartepoorte 2005; Burke 2006). A new captive breeding facility is being set up in Indonesian Timor, close to Roti (As-singkily and Horne, unpubl. data). Indonesia has legally restricted the trade of C. mccordi since 1997, but enforcement has been virtually non-existent; all exports of wild animals since 2002 have been illegal. However, Indonesia provides legal export permits for specimens claimed to have originated from captive breeding facilities, and one such facility operates on Java. Chelodina mccordi is listed as a protected species in Indonesia according to a new decree of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (no. P20/2018); it was previously listed as C. novaeguineae before its description as a new species. Reintroduction of this species to Roti within well-protected areas will be required if populations are to persist there; areas of suitable habitat are being considered for protected area status (As-singkily and Horne, unpubl. data), although at present there are no protected areas on Roti (Rhodin et al. 2008). Further studies into the ecology and conservation biology of the species is urgently needed and development of an action plan to carry out intensive surveys for possible remnant populations and establishing repatriation protocols and protected areas. Concerted efforts are also required to enforce trade regulations, verify the genuine captive production of specimens approved for export from Indonesia, and curtail the persistent illegal export of C. mccordi (Rhodin et al. 2008). Legislation in Timor-Leste needs to be developed, but the species is nominally protected there by its presence in Nino Konis Santana National Park.
Location InformationChelodina mccordi mccordi occurs on western Roti Island (= Pulau Rote) in the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia and had an original EOO of ca 200 sq. km, but this has now been reduced to an estimated AOO of <10 sq. km, and the taxon is considered Possibly Extinct in the Wild. Chelodina mccordi roteensis occurs as a disjunct subpopulation on the Tapuafu Peninsula of eastern Roti Island, with an original EOO of <20 sq. km, but now reduced to an estimated AOO of <20 ha in two wetlands, and Possibly Extinct in the Wild. Chelodina mccordi timorensis occurs at Lake Iralalaro and surrounding streams in Nino Konis Santana National Park in the Lautém District of Timor-Leste and has an EOO of ca 90 sq. km and has only one known subpopulation.
Population InformationSpecimens of Chelodina mccordi were collected in large numbers from the populations on Roti from the early 1970s well into the 1990s; field surveys on Roti in 1993 revealed that the main mid-central island population was still reasonably robust but was under pressure due to collection for the international pet trade (Rhodin 1994; Rhodin et al. 2008). Since the mid-1990s, all known populations of C. mccordi on Roti appear to have suffered disastrous population declines of >90% and are now commercially and ecologically extinct (Rhodin et al. 2004, 2008; Ibarrondo 2004; Stuart et al. 2006; As-singkily and Horne, unpubl. data). Despite many surveys over the last several years, the last known specimens of C. m. mccordi or C. m. roteensis on Roti Island were recorded in 2009 (As-singkily and Horne, unpubl. data; TCC 2018), and the species may now be locally extirpated. However, some animals have been repatriated to central Roti from captive breeding facilities (D. Gunalen, unpubl. data) and more intensive surveys and trapping efforts are needed before declaring the two Roti subspecies to be Extinct in the Wild; a few isolated individuals may still persist on the island. Interviews with local fishermen in Timor-Leste indicated that as of 2015, C. m. timorensis remained relatively common within its very limited range (Eisemberg et al. 2016).
ThreatsLocal consumption of Chelodina mccordi has historically been minimal. Habitat conversion of appropriate habitat into agricultural rice fields has gradually eliminated much of the species' original habitat; however, the species often utilized these altered habitats. This increased the species' chance of collection for the pet trade and exposed it to the effects of increasing use of agricultural chemicals and pesticides (Rhodin et al. 2008). Additionally, degradation of wetlands through deforestation and climate change effects further reduce the amount of appropriate habitat for this species. Massive land conversion for agricultural activity has destroyed most of original wetlands on Roti; from 1996 to 2016 Roti has lost 70% of its freshwater area (As-singkily and Horne, unpubl. data). A habitat rehabilitation program is needed to recover the remaining wetlands on Roti.
The international exotic animal trade has by far been the greatest threat impacting C. mccordi subpopulations. As a result of its description in 1994 as a restricted endemic species, intense pressure developed from international pet trade demand, resulting in a rapid increase in that trade (Samedi and Iskandar 2000; Stuart et al. 2006; Rhodin et al. 2008). The populations were decimated within five years and the species is now considered commercially and ecologically extinct on Roti. Invasive species, including pigs, dogs, livestock and predatory freshwater fish (Snakehead and Tilapia) have also impacted populations through trampling of nests and predation on hatchlings, severely limiting recruitment even prior to the final overexploitation of adults for the live animal trade. In Timor-Leste, pollution through garbage dumping and changes to Lake Iralalaro water levels are also impacting the species (Eisemberg et al. 2016). The species is also threatened by dry season fires, as it aestivates under dry grass.
IUCN Red List Account LinkPlease click here to see the species' IUCN Red List Account page.
Mark Klerks (category and featured image)