Roti Island Snake-necked Turtles become all but extinct
Embargoed for release until 2 February 2006 (00.01 ID time)
Jakarta, Indonesia: The Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle Chelodina mccordi is a small, long-necked turtle, found only in the wetlands of the island of Roti, in eastern Indonesia. Since this endemic turtle was described as a new species in 1994, international demand for it has intensified to the point where the species has become all but extinct in the wild. No legal trade of this species from Indonesia has been allowed since 2001. Prior to its description, it was exported illegally as another species, the New Guinea Snake-necked Turtle C. novaeguineae, which has been protected in Indonesia since 1980.
A new TRAFFIC report titled ”The Trade of the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle Chelodina mccordi” found that the capture and trade of these animals has not been carried out in accordance with the relevant laws in Indonesia. Despite national quotas set for harvest and export of C. mccordi between 1997 and 2001, no licences for collection have been issued to date, nor transport permits issued for movement from source to point-of-export within Indonesia. All specimens of C. mccordi that have been exported since 1994 have been illegally acquired.
In 2000, the IUCN Red List categorized the species as Critically Endangered, and in the same year, the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle was assessed as commercially extinct. The species is listed in Appendix II of CITES, which requires any international trade to be carried out under a permitting system.
However, the continuing international demand for C. mccordi from hobbyists and collectors in Europe, North America and East Asia is pushing this endemic species towards extinction. Even if C. mccordi is added to the Indonesian list of protected species, monitoring and enforcement of existing laws in place to protect wildlife from over-exploitation is lacking and in some places, non-existent. If these laws, such as the laws governing capture and transport of wildlife, are not enforced, this species will surely become extinct in the wild in the very near future.
The new report issues a number of recommendations, including better national protection and capacity building for increased and improved enforcement. In December 2005, TRAFFIC in close collaboration with the Indonesian CITES Management Authority conducted training and awareness building sessions on Roti Island to the enforcement agencies from the Island and nearby Timor.
"We hope that by increasing the levels of awareness and the capacity in enforcement techniques of these agencies, poachers will find it increasingly difficult to smuggle out any of the turtles that remain on Roti Island," said Chris Shepherd from TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and the co-author of the report.
"The Indonesian CITES Management Authority is working closely with TRAFFIC to train the enforcement agencies on Roti Island about the endangered status of the turtle and the need to protect it." said Dr Samedi of the Indonesia CITES Management Authority (PHKA). "PHKA is also working with LIPI, the Indonesian CITES Scientific Authority, to list the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle as a fully Protected species."
For more information, please contact Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Programme Officer, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia at email@example.com, tel. +603 7880 3940, or Maija Sirola, Communications Co-ordinator, TRAFFIC at firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +44 (0)1223 277427.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
• To download your personal copy of the full TRAFFIC Southeast Asia report titled The Trade of the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle Chelodina mccordi” in English and Bahasa Indonesia, visit www.traffic.org.
• CITES -The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora regulates international trade in more than 30 000 species of wild animals and plants. The Convention is currently applied in 167 nations, including Indonesia.
• Generous funding support for the training and awareness building workshop conducted on Roti Island to the enforcement agencies from Roti Island and nearby Timor in December 2005 was received from the Turtle Conservation Fund and WWF-US,.
• TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF, the conservation organization and IUCN – The World Conservation Union. www.traffic.org .