The Turtle Conservancy recently returned from a three week tour in Indonesia. The team held meetings with conservation groups and animal dealers about ways to help the two endemic species on the island of Sulawesi, the Sulawesi Forest Turtle (Leucocephalon yuwonoii) and the Forsten's Tortoise (Indotestudo forstenii). Both of these chelonians are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. Their scarcity is due to habitat destruction for palm oil, poaching for food, and collection for the pet trade. Currently, the animals in Sulawesi are being unsustainably consumed as food by Christian people on the island or exported for the pet trade. We witnessed sea turtles, bats, and even primates for sale in many food markets of Northern Sulawesi.
We sat down with current animal dealers removing the animals from the wild to discuss converting their largely failed operations into conservation efforts. By assisting future research teams in locating turtles and identifying land with the strongest populations, they may be able to guide us in where we can best protect the animals' habitats. In return, they can be compensated for helping manage protected land and guiding future release strategies. Similarly, we met with the staff at the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centre near Manado. We were amazed at their efforts to take in animals from the illegal food and pet trade and their dedicated care. The Turtle Conservancy will need the help of facilities like Tasikoki to eventually return captive raised animals back to their native island, in the form of quarantine, handling of confiscations, and outreach.
(Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centre does take in international volunteers. Those interested can find more information on their website: http://www.tasikoki.org/)