Three months after the first-ever release of the two Palawan Forest Turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis) that were being bred under human care, Katala Foundation, Inc. (KFI) has obtained some information, initially validating their earlier studies.
Through a press statement, Dr. Sabine Schoppe, founding member of KFI and Director of the Palawan Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program (PFTCP) said that they have found very useful information from the small radio transmitters that her group attached to the turtles when they were released back to the wild. The said gadget were attached to the individual turtles in order to monitor and track their movements in the wild for the first three months after their release in February this year.
She said that based on their preliminary analysis on the telemetry data from the small radio transmitters, movements of turtles are concentrated near the release site in an area covering 1,000 square meters and traveled in an average of 70 meters within the stream in 24
“The fact that the turtles stay close to the release site validates our earlier studies that indicate released individuals would
settle within their release site provided it comprises their favorite habitat,” Dr. Schoppe further stated.
She said that prior research of KFI disclosed that individuals settle in and become residents in a relatively small area, as long as the habitat provides for all their
Therefore, she stressed that if such an area is actively protected, the chances of these individuals helping to augment the dwindling wild populations elsewhere are higher.
“The findings of this release deepen our understanding of the behavior of the species and guides future conservation breeding and release site
protection measures. While we continue our breeding efforts, we intensify our endeavors to
have more protected areas,” she further stated.
PFTCP Director also added that said two reptiles will also be monitored through annual mark-recapture studies after the transmitters are removed.
The data collected, she pointed out, will deepen the knowledge and understanding of the behavior of the species, allowing conservationists to enhance and increase the success of conservation
efforts for the species.
KFI added that the pair is the first two recorded hatchlings of the species under human care in 2018, from
parents that had been cared for many years at KFI’s assurance colony facilities in Narra, Palawan.
“All these efforts and
accomplishments for the Palawan Forest Turtle is a great example of what can be achieved through strong global collaboration and conservation leadership. We hope this is the first of many turtle releases and we stay committed to help ensure these turtles thrive in the wild
again,” according to Dr. Sonja Luz, deputy CEO of Mandai Nature, a non-profit organization and institution of public character in Singapore. This NGO extends support to PFTCP that is jointly implemented by KFI and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS).
The Palawan Forest Turtle is also known as Bakoko in local name is dubbed as one of the world’s rarest freshwater turtle and likewise included in the top 25 endangered turtles in the world. This species, according to KFI was rediscovered only in 2004 after 80 years of absence.
This species of freshwater turtle is highly sought after in the illegal wildlife trade, prized by collectors for its rarity. The species is also faced with habitat
loss and degradation, putting it at extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.