Monday, December 03, 2007

Up to My Neck in Trouble

I have found that I can no longer visit zoos without specifically looking for EUTs. I suppose this isn’t a bad thing, as it’s always useful to expand my repertoire. On the other hand, it makes the experience slightly insufferable for people who come with me. Sorry. This time, it was again my home zoo, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. There were a few good turtles, but I had to choose one over the other. One had to fall by the wayside, because a) it is slightly cute (as evidenced by my girlfriend going “aww” upon seeing it), and b) the picture didn’t turn out nearly as well1.

Image by Me
Image by me

The Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi) is fairly aptly named. It is found on Roti Island, which is a 460 square mile Indonesian island, and it does, in fact, have a snake-like neck. There is even a video of this turtle on YouTube, taken at the Columbus Zoo. Like a number of EUTs before it, it’s creepier when it’s moving.

For some reason, I am having problems finding specific answers to why it has such an elongate neck. It is an opportunistic carnivore, and having a neck it can whip around is probably helpful in catching the quicker things, like small fish and tadpoles. Much like the Map Turtles and Red-Eared Sliders I’m used to, the Snake-Necked Turtle is semi-aquatic, so it typically spends most of its time in lakes, swamps, and rice paddies.

There are two major threats to the Snake-Neck’s survival. The first one is simply the fact that it has a small natural range, so there were fewer of them to begin with. The big issue, however, is the pet trade. Its sister species, the Eastern Snake-Necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis) is one of the most frequently-kept turtle species in Australia, and the Roti Island Snake-Neck is paying for it. As demand increases, the most economic thing to do is to increase supply, and up the price. Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtles can fetch anywhere from $300 to $500 on the black market.

This is exactly the sort of thing that CITES was created for. Now, any international trade of this turtle requires the right permits. It’s also been upgraded (downgraded?) to Critically Endangered on the IUCN red list. Other conservation programs have taken an interest, and there are breeding programs set up, though some confusions with similar species2 has slowed down the process some.

1For those who are curious, it was the Fly River Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta), which is neat because it’s a freshwater turtle that looks like a sea turtle.
2As infallible as we’d like to think we are, biologists don’t always get it right.


Anonymous said...

This is exciting, as I did not know that the Columbus Zoo had a aquarium...and I love aquariums! Will have to remember to drag my husband there soon.

As for the long neck, I know the softshell turtle has a pretty long neck, too and it seems to use it as a periscope primarily. That's just conjecture, though. (I can, however, state for a fact that softshells have a nasty bite!)

Michelle Baldwin ♥ said...

My friend and I went to Hogle Zoo in Utah and we saw a turtle like this. I think the snake-neck turtle is really cute, my friend was saying I should get one as a pet, and to be honest I'd love to. I think they're cute. Not photogenic, but they are cute in real life.

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safe meds said...

I think you are an hedonist. If you don't know the meaning , Hedonism is a school of thought which argues that pleasure and you are one of them, particularly using animals, visiting zoos... you should feel sorry about them, they are already dead, and you just want to see them at zoo. Are you talking to me? what do you say? are you trying something? Let's be clear... I love turtles and they love me. I had visited to many "zoos" and they are earing money, like any corporation, they are pigs, even worst than pigs and you are writing about it without shame. Are you talking to me? what did you say? I am like a turtleman and I will kick your ass!