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Noteworthy records and exploitation of Chelonians from the Ayeyarwady, Chindwin, and Dokhtawady rivers, Myanmar

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Abstract

We investigated the occurrence and conservation status of turtles in the Ayeyarwady, Chindwin, and Dokhtawady rivers, Myanmar, in 2000-01. The occurrence of Kachuga trivittata was documented in the Dokhtawady River, but viable populations apparently no longer remain in the lower reaches of the Ayeyarwady or Chindwin rivers that we investigated. We provide the first field report of the recently described Chitra vandijki, and distributional records for Cuora amboinensis, Heosemys grandis, Melanochelys trijuga edeniana, Morenia ocellata, Amyda cartilaginea, and Nilssonia formosa.

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... Formerly in Ayeyarwady, Chindwin, Sittaung, and Thanlwin (Salween) river drainage systems from mouths to upper reaches of these rivers. Now extirpated from most of its former range but survives in residual populations in the upper Chindwin River (Sagaing) and Dokhtawady River (Mandalay; Platt et al., 2005Platt et al., , 2017aPlatt et al., , 2018c. ...
... These data conflict with a more limited distribution shown by Das (2010b) and listed above in the Distribution section. Platt et al. (2005) ...
... Comments. Platt et al. (2005) had records from 2000 and 2001 surveys of its presence in Kachin, Mandalay, and Sagaing. K. Platt et al. (2012) provided a listing of its occurrence in most area of Myanmar; the areas listed in the Distribution sec tion are from their species account. ...
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... Formerly in Ayeyarwady, Chindwin, Sittaung, and Thanlwin (Salween) river drainage systems from mouths to upper reaches of these rivers. Now extirpated from most of its former range but survives in residual populations in the upper Chindwin River (Sagaing) and Dokhtawady River (Mandalay; Platt et al., 2005Platt et al., , 2017aPlatt et al., , 2018c. ...
... These data conflict with a more limited distribution shown by Das (2010b) and listed above in the Distribution section. Platt et al. (2005) ...
... Comments. Platt et al. (2005) had records from 2000 and 2001 surveys of its presence in Kachin, Mandalay, and Sagaing. K. Platt et al. (2012) provided a listing of its occurrence in most area of Myanmar; the areas listed in the Distribution sec tion are from their species account. ...
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Zug, George R. Amphibians and Reptiles of Myanmar: Checklists and Keys. I. Amphibians, Crocodilians, and Turtles. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, number 653, x + 113 pages, 43 figures, 4 plates, 3 tables, 6 appendixes, 2022. — Myanmar (formerly Burma) has 150 species of formally described amphibians (5 salamanders, 2 caecilians, and 143 frogs) and more than 200 species of reptiles (2 crocodilians, 20 turtles, 100+ lizards, and 100+ snakes). This herpetofauna was never the focus of a countrywide survey and study until recently, from 1997 through 2010. This treatise is the beginning of an overview of this fauna through sets of generic identification keys and checklists for adult amphibians, crocodilians, and turtles of Myanmar. It offers a partial summary of the biological findings of the Myanmar Herpetology Survey from 1997 through 2010, together with rapid assessment surveys during 2014−2017 for Fauna & Flora International’s Myanmar Programme and recent herpetological research and surveys of other zoologists.
... vandijki) but not with each other, a prediction inconsistent with the results of our survey. Similarly, Platt et al. (2005) found no evidence of microhabitat partitioning between A. ornata and N. formosa in the upper Ayeyarwady River, with fishermen reporting the capture of both species from the main river channel. In contrast, Kuchling et al. (2004) concluded from interviews of fishermen along the Chindwin River (a major tributary of the Ayeyarwady) that A. ornata was most abundant in tributary streams, whereas N. formosa and C. vandijki were more likely to be captured in the main river channel. ...
... In contrast, Kuchling et al. (2004) concluded from interviews of fishermen along the Chindwin River (a major tributary of the Ayeyarwady) that A. ornata was most abundant in tributary streams, whereas N. formosa and C. vandijki were more likely to be captured in the main river channel. Reports by survey participants suggesting that C. vandijki is restricted to the lower (downstream) reaches of IDPA are somewhat puzzling as this species is known to occur much farther upstream in the Ayeyarwady River (Platt et al. 2005). ...
... The methods used by fishermen to harvest Softshell Turtles in IDPA are similar to those reported elsewhere in Myanmar Kuchling et al. 2004;Platt et al. 2005;Kuchling et al. 2006). According to Kuchling et al. (2004), a minority of fishermen along the Chindwin River employed fish poisons and dynamite to harvest Softshell Turtles. ...
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We conducted an interview-based survey to investigate the conservation status of large (adult carapace length >400mm) Softshell Turtles (Amyda ornata, Chitra vandijki, and Nilssonia formosa) in the Irrawaddy Dolphin Protected Area (IDPA) of Myanmar during November 2015. Our objectives were to: (1) determine which species of Softshell Turtles occur in IDPA, (2) assess threats to these populations, (3) evaluate the protected area as a release site for captive-bred Softshell Turtles, and (4) make conservation recommendations. To this end, we interviewed 180 people (mostly males) in 30 villages and verified the occurrence of all three species of Softshell Turtles in IDPA. Softshell Turtle populations appear to have undergone precipitous declines during the last 10–15 years largely driven by commercial demand from the illegal trans-boundary wildlife trade with China. Turtle hunting is no longer considered economically worthwhile, but Softshell Turtles continue to be taken as fisheries by-catch. We recommend that existing regulations designed to protect dolphins be enforced, and most importantly electro-fishing be eliminated from IDPA. We also urge authorities to revisit earlier proposals to reduce or eliminate the use of monofilament gill netting in IDPA. Implementation of a community-based fisheries plan to address these issues is warranted. In lieu of effective action, Softshell Turtle populations in IDPA face almost certain extirpation in the near future. IDPA is currently considered unsuitable as a release site for captive-bred Softshell Turtles.
... The species was rediscovered in the Dokthawady River in Shan State (which flows into the Myitinge River and thence into the Ayeyarwady) during a 2001 WCS expedition (Platt et. al., 2005). Recent genetic analyses at the National University of Singapore suggest that as few as 10 breeding adults remain in the wild with only one or two males in the group. There is no doubt that the Burmese roofed turtle would have gone extinct if WCS had not intervened with effective in and ex situ conservation measures in 2006 (Platt and P ...
... The recently re-discovered Burmese roofed turtle, Batagur trivittata, population along the Dokthawady River in the Shan State is now thought to be extinct after the construction of a hydropower dam inundated nesting beaches and allowed an influx of fishermen (Platt et al., 2005). ...
... The species was rediscovered in the Dokthawady River in Shan State (which flows into the Myitinge River and thence into the Ayeyarwady) during a 2001 WCS expedition (Platt et. al., 2005). Recent genetic analyses at the National University of Singapore suggest that as few as 10 breeding adults remain in the wild with only one or two males in the group. There is no doubt that the Burmese roofed turtle would have gone extinct if WCS had not intervened with effective in and ex situ conservation measures in 2006 (Platt and P ...
... The recently re-discovered Burmese roofed turtle, Batagur trivittata, population along the Dokthawady River in the Shan State is now thought to be extinct after the construction of a hydropower dam inundated nesting beaches and allowed an influx of fishermen (Platt et al., 2005). ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The Ayeyarwady Basin is a vast area of more than 410,000 square kilometers, covering a total of 12 diverse eco-regions – from Hkakabo Razi Mountain at 5,881 metres (m) with its alpine shrub and meadow system dropping down to the delta mangroves and mudflats at sea level. The Ayeyarwady Basin is one of the most diverse biological regions in the world. It is the 19th richest region in bird diversity globally. It is home to 1,400 mammal, bird, and reptile species of which more than 100 species are globally threatened. At least 388 fish species are known to occur in this region, but the total is estimated to be nearer 550 once most of the areas have been surveyed. For most taxa, the current knowledge is very scarce and scattered. Amphibians and many invertebrates are little studied. This report focusses on wetland and riverine habitats and the biodiversity that is relatively well-studied. The analysis of the biodiversity in the basin is a sobering account of a wide-spread and systemic degradation of the basin’s species, habitats, and ecosystem functions. The findings in this assessment confirm a wide-spread decline in almost all taxa and across almost all regions. Several vertebrate species among the mammals, birds, and reptiles have already disappeared from the Ayeyarwady Basin, and many others are likely to follow suit if conservation actions are not taken seriously and supported with proper resources. The declines are pronounced and sharp, in particular for comparatively well-monitored water birds on many river stretches and lakes. A few species are increasing. Yet the vast majority is declining and, in some areas or regions, sharply, creating a sense of urgency to protect the characteristic, yet fragile biodiversity of the Ayeyarwady Basin. The riverine breeding birds, such as terns, skimmers, and lapwings, are most affected alongside the fast disappearing freshwater turtles, reflecting the overall precarious situation in the river and its wetlands. The threats and reasons for the declines are variable and far ranging, including large-scale industrial development, flyway-related issues among the migratory birds, small-scale but increasing sand and mineral mining, precipitious hunting, and poaching across the entire basin. The fragile river system and its wetlands are under enormous and increasing pressure from hydropower development, sand, pebble extraction, mining for gold and other minerals, and over-exploitation of its biological resources. It is a unique ecosystem and a lifeline for millions of people living in the center of the country. It deserves full protection and strict control over its resource management. Rapid changes in social and economic conditions will likely occur across Myanmar in the near future as annual rates for economic growth are expected to be as high as 8% and tightly linked to natural resource exploitation. Overall, Myanmar is close to a market of more than half a billion people. This creates new and additional challenges for people and biodiversity, which are already under enormous environmental stress. This could be addressed through policy and institutional reform and the integration of environmental safeguards into economic development planning. Some of these safeguards must be a comprehensive network of protected areas and a sustainable resource management that is negotiated and led by communities and supervised by an Integrated River Basin Management Committee and local subsidiaries. A resource management plan for entire rivers and adjacent wetlands needs to be established that includes no-take zones free of any fishing, mining, and dredging. In total approximately 90 key biodiversity areas have been identified, including 6 new areas based on the findings of this analysis. Only approximately 50% of these areas are included in a Protected Areas system. However, progress has been made recently, and two new Ramsar Sites have been designated. The Ayeyarwady River is unique. Its is one of the largest rivers in Asia that has not been fragmented by dams. It is largely unconstrained in its hydrology, sediment, and nutrient flow and still hosts a unique suite of biodiversity of international importance. Its scenery with quaint villages and pagodas, impressive sandbars, and gorges is unique and beautiful. It would certainly qualify as a World Heritage Site under natural criteria and possibly also for cultural criteria. This would not only boost the conservation of the region’s rich cultural and natural history but also provide a long-term vision for the local communities that builds their livelihoods and promotes a viable economy through eco-tourism and sustainable use of the river’s natural resources. Water birds have been well-studied, and long-term trend data are already available and have been analysed. These groups of birds are proposed as biodiversity indicators, and a suite of monitoring sites is proposed to monitor the health of the wetland ecosystems in the basin. In addition to the water birds and freshwater turtles, the river dolphins act as key sentinels for the health of the river ecosystem. The Irrawaddy River dolphin population is in a critical but stable state. The Yangtze Dolphin is extinct, and the Mekong River population of the Irrawaddy Dolphin is on the brink of extinction due to human impacts on the river ecosystem. Myanmar has the choice to either follow the destructive path of the Yangtze and Mekong Rivers, where biodiversity has suffered and the dolphins have been lost (Yangtze) or almost lost (Mekong), or opt for sustainable development in balance with biodiversity and people.
... However, rampant egg collection, conversion of nesting beaches to seasonal agricultural fields, and chronic over-harvesting of adults by fishermen led to long-term population declines, and by the 1970s the Burmese Roofed Turtle was assumed to be extinct. The species was "rediscovered" in Dokthawady River in Shan State (which flows into the Myitinge River, and thence into the Ayeyarwady) during a 2001 WCS expedition (Platt et al., 2005). Salter (1983), VAN DIJK (1997), and Thorbjarnarson et al. (2000b) Five species of softshell turtles are known to occur in Myanmar (Amyda cartilaginea, Nilssonia formosa, Chitra vandijki, Dogania subplana, Lissemys scutata), and three of these are endemic (N. ...
... State is now thought to be extinct after the construction of a hydropower dam inundated nesting beaches and allowed an influx of fishermen (Platt et al 2005). ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The Ayeyarwady Basin is a vast area of more than 410,000 square kilometers, covering a total of 12 diverse eco-regions – from Hkakabo Razi Mountain at 5,881 metres (m) with its alpine shrub and meadow system dropping down to the delta mangroves and mudflats at sea level. The Ayeyarwady Basin is one of the most diverse biological regions in the world. It is the 19th richest region in bird diversity globally. It is home to 1,400 mammal, bird, and reptile species of which more than 100 species are globally threatened. At least 388 fish species are known to occur in this region, but the total is estimated to be nearer 550 once most of the areas have been surveyed. For most taxa, the current knowledge is very scarce and scattered. Amphibians and many invertebrates are little studied. This report focusses on wetland and riverine habitats and the biodiversity that is relatively well-studied. The analysis of the biodiversity in the basin is a sobering account of a wide-spread and systemic degradation of the basin’s species, habitats, and ecosystem functions. The findings in this assessment confirm a wide-spread decline in almost all taxa and across almost all regions. Several vertebrate species among the mammals, birds, and reptiles have already disappeared from the Ayeyarwady Basin, and many others are likely to follow suit if conservation actions are not taken seriously and supported with proper resources. The declines are pronounced and sharp, in particular for comparatively well-monitored water birds on many river stretches and lakes. A few species are increasing. Yet the vast majority is declining and, in some areas or regions, sharply, creating a sense of urgency to protect the characteristic, yet fragile biodiversity of the Ayeyarwady Basin. The riverine breeding birds, such as terns, skimmers, and lapwings, are most affected alongside the fast disappearing freshwater turtles, reflecting the overall precarious situation in the river and its wetlands. The threats and reasons for the declines are variable and far ranging, including large-scale industrial development, flyway-related issues among the migratory birds, small-scale but increasing sand and mineral mining, precipitious hunting, and poaching across the entire basin. The fragile river system and its wetlands are under enormous and increasing pressure from hydropower development, sand, pebble extraction, mining for gold and other minerals, and over-exploitation of its biological resources. It is a unique ecosystem and a lifeline for millions of people living in the center of the country. It deserves full protection and strict control over its resource management. Rapid changes in social and economic conditions will likely occur across Myanmar in the near future as annual rates for economic growth are expected to be as high as 8% and tightly linked to natural resource exploitation. Overall, Myanmar is close to a market of more than half a billion people. This creates new and additional challenges for people and biodiversity, which are already under enormous environmental stress. This could be addressed through policy and institutional reform and the integration of environmental safeguards into economic development planning. Some of these safeguards must be a comprehensive network of protected areas and a sustainable resource management that is negotiated and led by communities and supervised by an Integrated River Basin Management Committee and local subsidiaries. A resource management plan for entire rivers and adjacent wetlands needs to be established that includes no-take zones free of any fishing, mining, and dredging. In total approximately 90 key biodiversity areas have been identified, including 6 new areas based on the findings of this analysis. Only approximately 50% of these areas are included in a Protected Areas system. However, progress has been made recently, and two new Ramsar Sites have been designated. The Ayeyarwady River is unique. Its is one of the largest rivers in Asia that has not been fragmented by dams. It is largely unconstrained in its hydrology, sediment, and nutrient flow and still hosts a unique suite of biodiversity of international importance. Its scenery with quaint villages and pagodas, impressive sandbars, and gorges is unique and beautiful. It would certainly qualify as a World Heritage Site under natural criteria and possibly also for cultural criteria. This would not only boost the conservation of the region’s rich cultural and natural history but also provide a long-term vision for the local communities that builds their livelihoods and promotes a viable economy through eco-tourism and sustainable use of the river’s natural resources. Water birds have been well-studied, and long-term trend data are already available and have been analysed. These groups of birds are proposed as biodiversity indicators, and a suite of monitoring sites is proposed to monitor the health of the wetland ecosystems in the basin. In addition to the water birds and freshwater turtles, the river dolphins act as key sentinels for the health of the river ecosystem. The Irrawaddy River dolphin population is in a critical but stable state. The Yangtze Dolphin is extinct, and the Mekong River population of the Irrawaddy Dolphin is on the brink of extinction due to human impacts on the river ecosystem. Myanmar has the choice to either follow the destructive path of the Yangtze and Mekong Rivers, where biodiversity has suffered and the dolphins have been lost (Yangtze) or almost lost (Mekong), or opt for sustainable development in balance with biodiversity and people.
... Museum of Natural History (Morris 1936). More recently, Kuchling et al. (2004) reported on the occurrence and conservation status of Trionychids in the upper Chindwin River basin, Platt et al. (2005) provided several distributional records from the lower Chindwin River, and Kuchling et al. (2006) published on the population status of the Critically Endangered Burmese Roofed Turtle (Batagur trivittata) in the upper Chindwin River. Herein, we present noteworthy distributional records for tortoises and turtles in the Chindwin River basin and adjacent Naga Hills of western Myanmar, and comment on the exploitation and conservation status of chelonians in this region. ...
... The specimen we examined constitutes the first record of M. t. edeniana from the Chindwin River basin. Additional records are available from the dry zone near Magwe (Platt et al. 2001b), Mandalay (Iverson 1992), and Tongoo (Theobald 1868) along the Ayeyarwady River between Mandalay and Bhamo (Smith 1931;Platt et al. 2005), "the Karenni foot-hills near Moulmein" (Smith 1931), and the Arakan (= Rakhine) Yoma Mountains (Theobald 1868;Smith 1931). Otherwise virtually nothing is known regarding the distribution and natural history of this turtle in Myanmar. ...
Article
The chelonian fauna of myanmar remains one of the least studied in asia, and acquiring basic distributional data is an essential prerequisite for effective conservation planning. To this end, we investigated the occurrence, exploitation, and conservation status of chelonians in the chindwin river basin and Naga hills of western myanmar during february-March 2012 and 2013. During this survey, we obtained specimen-based records of Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota), yellow or elongated tortoise (indotestudo elongata), myanmar Brown leaf turtle (Cyclemys fusca), Burmese Black turtle (Melanochelys trijuga edeniana), and Keeled Box turtle (Cuora mouhotii). A G. platynota carapace that we obtained at Kani represents a significant northwards range extension and is the only documented occurrence of this tortoise from the west bank of the chindwin river. Our specimens of i. elongata and M. Trujuga edeniana constitute the first records of either species from the chindwin river basin. our specimens of C. Fusca fill a distributional hiatus between the chin hills and hukaung valley. The C. mouhotii we examined in the Naga hills are the only post-world war ii records of this turtle in myanmar and represent a significant eastward range extension from neighboring assam, india. We found no evidence of a commercially-driven harvest of chelonians in western myanmar. However, opportunistic subsistence harvesting is widespread in agricultural landscapes along the chindwin river and occurring at levels that are probably unsustainable. in the Naga hills where human population density is low, villages are widely scattered, and extensive forested habitat remains, chelonian populations are probably secure, at least for the moment.
... The Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata) is endemic to the larger rivers of Myanmar (Fig. 1 & Supporting Information). Presumed extinct by the late 1990s, B. trivittata was rediscovered in 2001 and is now considered among the 5 most endangered chelonians (Platt et al. 2005;Kuchling et al. 2006a). Two remnant wild populations were identified in the early-2000s, one in the Chindwin River Basin (upper Chindwin River [Kuchling et al. 2006b]) and the other in the Dokthawady River System (Kuchling et al. 2006a). ...
Article
The Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata) is one of the world's most endangered turtles. Only one wild population remains in Myanmar. Based on field observations, wild breeders are thought to number around a dozen. Combined in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts for the species have raised >700 captive turtles over a decade predominantly from wild collected eggs. In one of the most comprehensive studies bridging genomic methodologies with active in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts, we obtained ∼1500 unlinked genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from ∼40% of the turtles’ remaining global population. We found that individuals fall into five distinct genetic clusters, four of which represent full-sib families. We inferred a low effective population size (≤10) but did not detect signs of severe inbreeding, possibly because the population bottleneck has only happened recently. Based on genetic diversity, we identified two groups of 30 individuals from the captive pool that were subsequently reintroduced, leading to an increase in breeding success in the wild. Another 25 individuals, selected via the same criteria, were transferred to Singapore Zoo as an assurance colony. Our study demonstrates that the research-to-application gap in conservation can be bridged by successful agency-academic collaboration and through rigorous application of sound genomic methodologies. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... It appears to have been introduced to areas beyond this natural range. There are records from extreme eastern Mizoram in India (Pawar and Choudhury 2000) and extreme southeastern Bangladesh (Rahman et al. 2015), most of Myanmar (Burma) (e.g., Iverson 1992;Kuchling 1995;Kuchling et al. 2004;Platt et al. 2000Platt et al. , 2005Platt et al. , 2007Platt et al. , 2012, Thailand (e.g., van Dijk and Palasuwan 2000; Amornsakchai et al. 2000;Pauwels et al. 2002Pauwels et al. , 2003Nabhitabhata and Chan-ard 2005;Duengkae 2011), Cambodia (e.g., Daltry andDany 2000;Stuart and Platt 2004;Som et al. 2006;Bezuijen et al. 2008Bezuijen et al. , 2009Platt et al. 2008;Schmidt and Theilade 2010;Hartmann et al. 2013), the Mekong drainage area of Laos (e.g., Stuart and Timmins 2000;IUCN 2013) and the plains between Xe Kong and Xe Pian rivers (Davies et al. 2006) and Khammouan Province in Laos (Stuart and Platt 2004), central and south Vietnam (e.g., Nguyen and Ho 1996;Farkas and Ziegler 2002;Nguyen et al. 2009), the Malay Peninsula and offshore islands (e.g., Grismer et al. 2006), Singapore (Yong 1990), and the continental shelf islands of Sumatra (e.g., Bleeker 1857;de Rooij 1915;Teynié et al. 2010;Sentosa et al. 2013), Java, (e.g., de Rooij 1915Whitten et al. 1996), elongated streaks ( Fig. 1 in . Limbs usually bear fewer distinct spots. ...
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The Asiatic Softshell Turtle, Amyda cartilaginea (Family Trionychidae), is a large species (total carapace length up to 850 mm) showing considerable variation in coloration over its wide range in tropical Southeast Asia. A recent genetic analysis suggests A. cartilaginea may be a species complex consisting of three species level clades with several subspecies. The turtle inhabits most types of aquatic habitats, from hill streams to rivers and swamps. It is an opportunistic omni-vore with a preference for animal food. No comprehensive study of its reproductive biology exists; published observations suggest that females lay multiple clutches throughout the year with most nests being laid in the dry season, with clutch size ranging 3–28 eggs. Incubation period depends on microhabitat conditions and may last from 2–4.5 months. Amyda cartilaginea is a popular food animal; it is intensively exploited and appears frequently in the Asian food trade. Although some populations are in decline, the species still appears moderately abundant, at least at some sites. Several populations occur in protected areas. Specific conservation actions for heavily exploited populations appear to be overdue. Continued unregulated and unreported international trade would undoubtedly further threaten the species and careful monitoring of this trade is necessary. DiStributiOn. – Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. Broadly distributed in Southeast Asia from extreme eastern Bangladesh and India through Indochina to Borneo and the large continental islands of Indonesia. Records from Yunnan, China, and east of Wallace's line (e.g., Lombok, Sulawesi) very likely represent introduced individuals. SynOnyMy. – Testudo cartilaginea Boddaert 1770a, Gymnopus cartilaginea, Trionyx cartilagin-eus, Aspidonectes cartilagineus, Potamochelys cartilagineus, Amyda cartilaginea, Amyda cartilaginea cartilaginea, Testudo membranacea Blumenbach 1779 (nomen dubium), Testudo boddaerti Schnei-der 1787 (nomen novum), Trionyx boddaerti, Testudo striata Suckow 1798 (partim, nomen novum),
... Although there is a limited commercial harvest in the region (see below), most collecting appears to be the result of opportunistic encounters rather than purposeful hunting or trapping. During previous turtle surveys in Southeast Asia, we have relied heavily on professional or subsistence hunters to locate specimens, identify habitat, and provide input on local population trends (e.g., Platt et al., 2003a, 2003b, 2003c, Stuart and Platt, 2004, Platt et al., 2005; however, this option was unavailable during our work in Sulawesi. ...
Article
Three species of non-marine chelonians are known to occur in Sulawesi, including the widespread Malayan box turtle (Cuora amboinensis) and two endemic species, the Sulawesi tortoise (Indotestudo forstenii) and Sulawesi forest turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoi). Very little is known regarding the current conservation status, distribution, or ecology of either Indotestudo forstenii or Leucocephalon yuwonoi in the wild. This is particularly alarming given that both species are being collected in large numbers to supply international pet markets, with lesser numbers channeled into food and medicinal markets. Indotestudo forstenii and L. yuwonoi are listed on Appendix I and II, respectively, of CITES and both are protected and managed under Indonesian law through export quotas. However, indications are that for a variety of reasons, these export quotas are regularly exceeded and an extensive, largely illegal trade in endemic Sulawesi turtles exists. Based on the recognition that urgent action is required in the face of threats posed by over-harvesting and habitat destruction, we initiated a project in 2006 with the following objectives: 1) train local WCS field staff and university students in turtle survey methodology; 2) determine the distribution of I. forstenii and L. yuwonoi in northern Sulawesi (Gorontalo and Northern Provinces), 3) determine if I. forstenii or L. yuwonoi are present within any protected area of this region, 4) identify populations of I. forstenii and L. yuwonoi suitable for long-term life history studies by Indonesian graduate studies, 5) gather sufficient data to assess the current conservation status of I. forstenii and L. yuwonoi, 6) make conservation recommendations to Indonesian and International authorities based on our findings, and 7) determine the feasibility of establishing a local rehabilitation and captive breeding center for I. forstenii and L. yuwonoi in Sulawesi. This project and consisted of two phases: an initial round of village interviews during June to gather preliminary data and identify sites suitable for further investigation, and a follow-up field survey in July. Preliminary interview teams questioned 113 individuals at localities scattered throughout northeastern Minahasa. During the follow-up survey we visited 19 villages and conducted additional interviews along with diurnal and nocturnal field surveys. We received numerous reports of turtles other than Cuora amboinensis occurring in northern Sulawesi. Linguistic diversity and local folk taxonomies made it difficult to determine which species of turtle informants were describing. However, almost without exception villagers were familiar with C. amboinensis and adamantly maintained that at least one additional species of turtle occurred in their area. Collectively these reports suggest that Indotestudo forstenii and Leucocephalon yuwonoi are more widely distributed in northern Sulawesi than previously believed. Numerous respondents also described a turtle known locally as the "white turtle". We were unable to ascertain whether the white turtle is a local designation for L. yuwonoi or refers to a hitherto undescribed taxon.
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The intense exploitation of turtles in Asian markets has contributed to declines in turtle populations across the continent. Three-quarters of Asia’s turtles are threatened and half are endangered. A recent workshop on the Asian turtle crisis identified taxonomic studies of widespread species as a priority for research because these low risk species may include unrecognized, narrowly distributed taxa of much higher concern. Chitra indica is a widely exploited softshell turtle (family Trionychidae) found across southern Asia. Individuals from Thailand have been described as a separate species, Chitra chitra, but this has not been universally accepted, and many sources consider Chitra monotypic. Phylogenetic analysis of sequence data from the mitochondrial ND4 gene revealed three deeply divergent, monophyletic lineages within Chitra: C. indica, C. chitra, and a third unnamed form from Myanmar. This new form is probably Critically Endangered, which highlights the importance of systematic studies in determining conservation priorities.
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Inventories of vertebrate and flowering plants are frequently used as surrogates for estimates of total biodiversity. This is in part because the inclusion of invertebrates and nonflowering plants is perceived as being too time-consuming, costly, and difficult because of the shortage of specialists. Estimates of the species richness of field samples of spiders, ants, polychaetes, and mosses made by a biodiversity technician and by specialist taxonomists were compared. The biodiversity technician received a few hours training in the taxonomy of each group and separated specimens into recognizable taxonomic units (RTUs). The specialists sorted to species. For the three animal groups the biodiversity technician recorded 165 taxa and the specialists 147, with the error for the ants and spiders being 13% or less. A small amount of splitting and lumping of species was detected. The concordance of estimates remained very similar when small subsamples were used. The procedure was repeated by 13 undergraduates using a subsample of spiders. Their average error was 14.4%. The greatest similarity in estimates was for the mosses, but with high levels of splitting and lumping this result was entirely fortuitous. The results suggest that RTU estimates made by biodiversity technicians may be sufficiently close to formal taxonomic estimates of species richness to be useful for the rapid assessment of biodiversity. They also show, however, that the procedures outlined here should be used on invertebrate and nonflowering plant groups before they can be confidently included in biodiversity surveys.
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/ We examined data relative to species abundance, distribution, anddiversity patterns of reptiles and amphibians to determine how perceptionschange over time and with level of sampling effort. Location data werecompiled on more than one million individual captures or observations of 98species during a 44-year study period on the US Department of Energy's(DOE) Savannah River Site National Environmental Research Park (SRS-NERP) inSouth Carolina. We suggest that perceptions of herpetofaunal speciesdiversity are strongly dependent on level of effort and that land managementdecisions based on short-term data bases for some faunal groups could resultin serious errors in environmental management. We provide evidence thatacquiring information on biodiversity distribution patterns is compatiblewith multiyear spatially extensive research programs and also provide aperspective of what might be achieved if long-term, coordinated researchefforts were instituted nationwide.To conduct biotic surveys on government-managed lands, we recommend revisionsin the methods used by government agencies to acquire and report biodiversitydata. We suggest that government and industry employees engaged inbiodiversity survey efforts develop proficiency in field identification forone or more major taxonomic groups and be encouraged to measure the status ofpopulations quantitatively with consistent and reliable methodologies. Wealso suggest that widespread academic cooperation in the dissemination ofinformation on regional patterns of biodiversity could result byestablishment of a peer-reviewed, scientifically rigorous journal concernedwith status and trends of the biota of the United States. KEY WORDS: Abundance; Amphibian; Biodiversity; Distribution; Landmanagement; Reptile