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Research to help prevent turtle extinction

By Leanne Coleman

The long-necked turtle Chelodina mccordi timorlestensis is unique to Timor Leste The long-necked turtle Chelodina mccordi timorlestensis is unique to Timor Leste

A critically endangered species of turtle found only in Timor Leste is being investigated by Charles Darwin University researchers and students in an effort to save it from extinction. 

The long-necked Turtle Chelodina mccordi timorlestensis is unique to Timor Leste and is found only in Lake Iralalaro and surrounding areas.

Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods Dr Carla Eisemberg said the Timor Leste long-necked turtle was listed as critically endangered under the IUCN red list criteria. 

“Due to its small area of occurrence, harvest pressure, and habitat loss, it has a high chance of becoming extinct in the wild,” Dr Eisemberg said.

“The project “Projetu Lenuk Lorosa’e” aims to train not only Timor Leste university students, but also Forest Rangers from Nino Konis Santana National Park in how to monitor and protect the turtles.”

Dr Eisemberg travelled to Timor Leste with CDU Environmental Science students earlier in the year to talk with the local community about working to preserve the species.

“There is a unique opportunity for the community to capitalise on a conservation-based tourism venture due to their proximity to the major tourist area of Baucau and Com,” she said.

“There is a real opportunity for the community to make this a flagship conservation species.”

Dr Eisemberg said the project also presented research and learning opportunities for students.

The project is funded by Conservation International, Turtle Conservation Fund, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation and The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, with support from the Timor Leste Protected Areas and National Park Department.

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