Over 2,000 acres were designated by the municipal government of Mendoza as a major step toward the creation of a larger permanent protected area for the Critically Endangered Palawan Forest Turtle.
Through the efforts of Rainforest Trust’s local partner Katala Foundation, Inc. (KFI), the municipal government of Mendoza designated 2,413 acres toward establishing a new 4,552-acre permanent protected area for the Critically Endangered Palawan Forest Turtle. The turtle is among the 25 most threatened turtle species in the world. An enigmatic freshwater species endemic to the island of Palawan in the Philippines, the Palawan Forest Turtle was surrounded by more misconceptions than almost any other turtle in the region. For over 80 years, its true geographic distribution in the Philippines remained a mystery – until a recent discovery on Palawan. Unfortunately, this important discovery has spurred a collecting frenzy to supply illegal wildlife markets. The lack of reserves and parks protecting the species has exacerbated the illegal trapping of the Palawan Forest Turtle.
The range of the species is limited to the north of the island. Preliminary population surveys throughout its range indicate that it is concentrated in just two municipalities, Roxas and Taytay. Subpopulations of the Palawan Forest Turtle in Taytay are likely to be the source of most illegally caught turtles that are available in the trade. This has led to local extinction in some areas in Taytay, making Roxas a priority conservation area for the species.
The Palawan Forest Turtle depends on specific areas of lowland swamp forest habitat. The species’ narrow elevational range and specific habitat requirements mean that the Palawan Forest Turtle is extremely range-restricted. In addition, almost all lowland swamp forest has been converted into rice paddy fields and little remains intact, so all suitable habitat remaining is vital for the long-term survival of the species.
This conservation site is also habitat for Endangered Palawan Pangolins and will provide a vital refuge for the species, as pangolins are currently the most trafficked mammal in the world.
As part of the campaign to protect over 4,000 acres of habitat for the turtle, Rainforest Trust and its local partner are also working to purchase a 26-acre private parcel, where the Palawan Forest Turtle Reserve will be established to provide another safe haven for the species. By preventing the conversion of this vital habitat to rice paddy fields and monitoring it to prohibit the illegal collection of the species, this proposed reserve will be a critical part of protecting the Palawan Forest Turtle.
“Saving a species from extinction often takes a multifaceted approach to conservation,” Rainforest Trust Director of Conservation Programs James Lewis said. “Our local partner is doing an amazing job of engaging communities, the government and landowners to develop a comprehensive strategy for the Palawan Forest Turtle.”
“We are extremely proud to be part of this effort to establish not one reserve but rather a network of protected areas that will provide a lasting safe haven for the survival of this incredible species.”
Thanks to our many generous friends around the world and the SAVES Challenge, this project is a success. A special thank you to Luanne Lemmer and Dr. Eric Veach and the Turtle Conservancy for their leadership support.
For more information on how you can support Rainforest Trust, visit our Conservation Action Fund.