Wild Encounters: Sulawesi Forest Turtle

Wild Encounters

Micah: Welcome back to another edition of Wild Encounters.  We’re here in a jungle setting and a perfectly appropriate for the Sulawesi forest turtle…i’d to make sure I said that right. I was like, close right?
Kathy: Right.
Micah: So I’m here with Kathy. She’s a senior herpetologist here. Tell us more about the Sulawesi forest turtle. 
Kathy: Well, they are one of the most endangered turtle species and the world.  They are from the island of Sulawesi which is one of the islands of Indonesia. They live in rivers and forests and half their time in the water and half the time on land.  They are very secretive so their natural history is not well understood. They were only identified as a species in 1995…like the western scientific world wasn’t really aware of their existence. 
Micah:  Wow. So, so very rare very secretive animal and an adorable baby one right here. We’ve done well here on conservation here at Riverbanks.
Kathy:  Yeah, we had three females…wild females for several years and then got a male on loan from the Turtle Survival Alliance in 2011 and then 2016 we had our first baby.
Micah: We have this cute baby.  You told me just a minute ago has kind of a serrated edge on its back and that it eventually loses that as it grows into an adult and kind of changed its appearance a little bit.  Tell us about the difference in appearance between the males and the females. 
Kathy:  Yeah, the genus for this turtle is Leucocephalon and that means white head and the males have a cream color/yellow colored head… very distinctive.  They’re a little bit larger than the females, but they’re…even though it stands out when you look at them in a picture, it’s all about being cryptic and blending into their environment so they would match in with light colored rocks in the river, leaves, you know forest debris.  
Micah: So great camouflage there and like you said, potentially one of the most endangered turtles in the world and conservation efforts here helping hopefully repopulate them in the wild. 
Kathy:  Well yes we’re trying to do captive breeding and we also the do also support some biologists doing natural history research into it and which is much needed because there’s not a lot of understanding about their natural history since they are so secretive. 
Micah: So once again Riverbanks Zoo doing amazing conservation work to help a cute little baby turtle, like this one, but then also the parents, which are beautiful animals as well…continuing to help repopulate endangered species which is the amazing kind of work that zoos like Riverbanks do.  We’ll see you next time.

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