|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.