Monday, May 18, 2009

International team rescues critically endangered terrapin

Every now and again, the MCSS Research Officer gets called out to deal with a turtle rescue … in this case, a terrapin!

“J.Lo”, the first known record of a Yellow-Bellied Mud Turtle in the Plantation Wetland, photo Elke Talma.

“J.Lo” was found by Jan Van Wijk, a South African, wandering on the road near Plantation Club along the West coast of Mahe. He phoned Leo Hoevers, a Dutchman, who runs a dive centre at Anse La Mouche. Leo called Glynis Sanders, a Scot who is married to David, a Welshman who is the Chairman of MCSS. Glynis called Elke, a Seychellois who then rushed over to investigate.

Not being a terrapin expert, Elke took the animal back to the MCSS office and spent some time on the internet trying to ID the Species. “J.Lo”, named after her rescuers (J for Jan and Lo for Leo), is a Seychelles Yellow-Bellied Mud Turtle (
Pelusios castanoides intergularis) a sub species of P. castanoides which is found on mainland Africa ranging from Kenya to the north eastern Republic South Africa. The species which is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN 2008 Red List, is restricted to 6 islands of the Seychelles group, with 4 breeding populations remaining.

In 2005, it was estimated that there were only 120 adults in the wild and legal protection of wetland habitats is urgently required as populations continue to decline due to ongoing marsh drainage and river canalization.
ID chart for Seychelles endemic terrapins, Mortimer and Bour (2002)

After confirming the species ID with terrapin expert, Justin Gerlach from the Nature Protection Trust, Seychelles, the next step was to decided what to do with “J.Lo”. Should she be released back in the Plantation Club wetland, where a tourism development is scheduled to begin shortly or should she be relocated to the Intendance wetland which is being managed and protected by Banyan Tree Resort, Seychelles?

Banyan Tree Wetland, a safe haven for terrapins, photo Elke Talma.

With an estimated population of only 120 animals, the choice was easy. Staff at Banyan Tree who are familiar with terrapin husbandry, are working on a quarantine area for “J.Lo” but in the mean time she is chilling in Elke’s bathtub and developing a fetish for broccoli and banana’s, having turned her nose up at the snails Elke found in her garden.


Anonymous said...

I like the story and her name choice is spot on.

Way to go J.Lo


Anonymous said...

I love this story. Keep up the good work. Patricia

turtle chick said...

I though it was rather good too!

J.Lo is still with me, during the day she stays in the garden where she hides in my flower bed, at around 6pm-ish she start crawling around and by nine i have to put her in the bathtub as i do not want to be responsible for loosing a critically endangered species!

She will be transferred to Banyan on Friday and will be in quarantine for 4 weeks before being released into the wetland.

turtle chick said...

I lost J.Lo!

Well only for a little while!

After posting my comment on the blog last night, I went to check on her and she was nowhere to be found. PANIC!!!! My dog, Izzy, who had proven himself as a great terrapin tracker was of no use and kept thinking we were off to a midnight swim!

I went home, had some dinner, fed the dogs and waited about 10 minutes before dragging Izzy for another search and rescue expedition. With my torch in one hand and a stick in the other, Izzy and I rummaged through every pile of leaves we could find – eventually we found J.Lo curled up under a pile of coconut husks in my flower bed, half buried in the dirt, less than 20 cm from where she had been snoozing during the day!

Ecstatic does not describe how I felt. After confirming she was still alive, I covered her up with a large box (just in case she decided to go walkies in the middle of the night) and went to bed with a smile.

J.Lo has gone into hibernation, having decided my garden is not up to her standards. Friday cannot come soon enough!

Anonymous said...

Hey turtle chick, you are lucky you did not get bitten by a Centipede while rummaging through piles of leaves in the middle of the night.
If you ever want a pond for future terrapines call me. I built one at home in 2 hours with a spade, some builders plastic and loads of water weeds. the downside is I now have "the moonlight frog choir"
that perform most nights for most of the night under my bedroom window.
Enjoy Reunion


turtle chick said...

Hi Roberta

Thank for you offer to host terrapins in your backyard pond. Unfortunately, because the species is protected under Seychelles law, it is illegal to keep them as pets.

Enjoy your frogs – do you want me to put you in touch with a frog expert so you can identify your new tenats?