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For tortoise, terrapin and turtle care and conservation


with Matt Ward
Whilst assisting with research on King Cobra telemetry in Thailand Matt came across a few medium sized tortoises, the Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) in the Dry Evergreen and Dipterocarp forests on site. After searching for literature on the species it was noticeable that there was a severe lack of information on the species, particularly ecology and behaviour. Matt graduated with a Master’s Degree in Animal Behaviour from Queens University of Belfast and decided afterward to conduct a research project to investigate the behaviour ecology of the Elongated Tortoises of Thailand.

Sakaerat Tortoise


The Elongated Tortoise is listed as endangered but requiring update by the IUCN, giving extra urgency for research to be conducted. These tortoises are affected heavily by human threats including deforestation and habitat loss, although to what degree is unknown, and primarily trade. Deforestation in this circumstance involves some industrial logging but largely small scale local poaching of individual plants species, cutting for wood or clearing for land. The tortoises have been legally and illegally removed from the wild for many years as a commodity in the food, pet and medicinal trades. To the extent that further poaching will lead to a very real danger of localized extinctions and worse.

This particular project is an investigation into the habitat preferences, home range size and ecology observations of the Elongated Tortoises. Tracking 10 adult tortoises with a specific desire to map the daily and annual movement patters of each individual and observe interactions with each other, other species and foraging/diet. The study site is a Biosphere Reserve in NE Thailand called Sakaerat, containing an active research station called the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station. The core of this reserve will be outline of the study site with 3 primary habitats located in this area. These habitats are the Dipterocarp forest (sparse tall palm like trees with bamboo grass covering most of the area), Dry Evergreen forest (a dense wooded multi-story forest of diverse tree species) and Bamboo forest (comprised unsurprisingly of large bamboo patches amongst smaller bamboo grass). The method chosen for this project uses Radio Telemetry equipment supported by handheld GPS devices to map the animals home range and habitat usage. In addition to using GPS waypoints and mapping software the specific habitat the animal is located in and details of its microhabitat will be recorded. And during an hour of observation each day any interactions between conspecifics, other species and particularly foraging species will be recorded. This species has been recorded previously as eating a multitude of plant, fungi and animal matter but only from individual encounters or small term monitoring. The ultimate aim for the project is to develop a long term monitoring program for the species, disseminate the knowledge of the species for conservation organisations and to better aid conservation actions. After numerous searches and proposals, the National Geographic Society and the British Chelonia Group agreed to fund the project, with equipment assistance from Craghoppers, Gurit and Perdix Wildlife Supplies. Particular interest has been sought to working with British based conservation bodies to further home grown conservation ideas and research.