Captive breeding efforts to conserve the critically endangered Palawan forest turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis) are on the right track and paying off with the successful hatching of the second baby turtle named “Eudelyn”, an expert on the species said.
Dr. Sabine Schoppe, director of the Palawan Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program (PFTCP) of the Katala Foundation, Inc. (KFI), said the second “truly” captive-bred (CB) freshwater turtle which hatched on October 3, 2018, is another proof that their intensified research on breeding in a controlled environment is possible and will succeed.
“Parang we are going there… we are going there. The fact that we were able to captive breed the second [turtle] indicates that we must be really on the right track of imitating the habitat to make the turtle feel comfortable and not stressed. Stress is the major factor that we identified to be affecting them,” Schoppe said to Palawan News in an interview.
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Named after its keeper Eudelyn Gabuco, Schoppe said it first attempted to leave its eggshell on October 2, 2018, in their facility center in Narra.
She said the second CB was from captive parents that are part of their “assurance colony”.
They only made the announcement recently because they had to first make sure it will survive, she said.
“We are now doing bayanihan in Narra to create actual habitat enclosures. Bayanihan because we have a pond liner that weighs 240 kilos, and we can only move it if there are maraming tao. So, we are going to make a pond with flowing water to resemble the forest,” she said.
There is a third CB that is yet to hatch, Schoppe also added. It was found in the KFI breeding facility on December 29, 2018.
“The color markings of the egg indicate that it is fertile and developing. We expect the baby to hatch in the first half of March 2019,” she said.
The Palawan forest turtle has a high value in the pet and food trade market which triggers its illegal collection from the wild. Wild caught hatchlings are often declared captive bred to legalize the trade.
Schoppe said “buyers should beware” because the Palawan forest turtle has only been bred under human care in June 2018 by their conservation program.
In June last year, the KFI under the PFTCP was able to breed “Sonja”, the first captive-bred, after 10 years of research and study efforts through the financial support of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).
Called also as Philippine forest turtle, Philippine pond turtle or the Palawan turtle, the freshwater turtle species can be recognized by the white ring around the neck.
Its conservation was given fresh importance in 1988 following the rediscovery of a specimen.
Schoppe said earlier that it took another 20 years until it was confirmed that the species is from Palawan and not Leyte.
She said like other species, the Palawan forest turtle has equal rights to be protected because of its role in the ecosystem as pest control species like feeding on the golden kuhol.
The hatchlings, she added, also consume mosquito larvae that are potential carriers of malaria and dengue.
“The species is critically endangered and the main threat is the collection for the illegal wildlife trade, followed by food, and traditional medicine,” Schoppe said.