COLOMBIA

Creating the First Protected Area for Critically Endangered Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle

Project Cost: $253,715

Funding Raised: $172,469

$854 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)
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Northern Colombia’s tropical dry forest is the most threatened in the country, with only 8%t of its original cover is still intact. Thirty potential properties in this region were identified and ranked in order through a Rapid Feasibility Award to establish a new protected area for the Critically Endangered Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle. This freshwater turtle, endemic to the tropical dry forest of northern Colombia, is not known to live within any protected area across its range.

Rainforest Trust and local partner Wildlife Conservation Society-Colombia seek $253,715 to purchase and protect 297 acres that will create the Reserva Natural La Carranchina. The partner prioritized the proposed property for its confirmed presence of the Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle as well as sufficient bodies of water to support the species. The partner has pre-negotiated purchase of the property, and there are opportunities to procure adjacent land and expand the protected area further.

Photo: The Critically Endangered Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle. Photo by Turtle Survival Alliance.

Fast Facts

Location: Colombia

Size: 297 acres

Key Species: Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle (CR)

Habitat: Dry tropical forest

Threats: Agricultural encroachment

Action: Land purchase to protect Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle

Local partner: Wildlife Conservation Society-Colombia

Financial need: $253,715

Price per Acre: $854

Metric Tons Carbon Storage: 6,000

Biodiversity

Most of the area within the species range is degraded land, with some secondary forest remnants. Thus, the proposed protected area contains species typical of secondary dry forest.

The only endemic species known to occur is the Dahl's Toad-headed Turtle, which is not represented in any other protected area in Colombia. There are also records of other turtle and tortoise species, like Red-footed Tortoise, Tabasco Mud Turtle, Colombian Slider and Colombian Wood Turtle. Other vertebrates that could be present in the reserve include racoons, howler monkeys and wild rabbits. Some threatened species of palms may be present or can be the focus of restoration activities, such as an American oil palm (Elaeis oleifera) and Astrocaryum malybo.

Photo: Dahl’s Toad-headed Turtle. Photo by Wildlife Conservation Society.

Challenges

Much of Colombia’s northern dry forest has been transformed for cattle farming and agriculture.

This has resulted in deforestation of the riparian vegetation and intense disturbance of the streams where Dahl's Toad-headed Turtles are found. There is an urgent need to safeguard a portion of this habitat, eliminating human activities and restoring habitat quality.

Photo: Potential Reserva Natural La Carranchina. Photo by Turtle Survival Alliance.

Communities

The local community in San Benito Abad is composed of non-indigenous rural peoples, whose livelihoods depend on crops of cassava and corn. Some people have small parcels of land, but most live and work on big ranches owned by inhabitants of nearby cities such as Monteria and Sincelejo.

The local community has not been involved much in the project yet, but it has been assisted by another community, Cotocá Arriba (Econbiba), located in Cordoba about two hours away from the proposed protected area. Members of Econbiba have been working on a community-based project for the conservation of the endemic and Critically Endangered Magdalena River Turtle for more than ten years. They will interact with the local community next to the protected area in San Benito Abad, and involve them in conservation activities. This will be immensely helpful as they are neighbors and have previous conservation experience.

Photo: Visitors on the potential reserve site. Photo by Turtle Survival Alliance.

Solutions

Rainforest Trust and local partner seek $253,715 to purchase and protect 297 acres that will create the Reserva Natural La Carranchina in the tropical dry forest of northern Colombia, establishing the first protected area for the Critically Endangered Dahl's Toad-headed Turtle.

This would be the only site across the species range where human activities would be controlled, leaving the land and water bodies undisturbed for native species of fauna and flora. The partner’s long-term goal of habitat restoration will provide quality habitat for feeding and nesting areas. Water bodies will be protected and additional pools will be constructed to increase water availability. After surveying the species across its entire range, this site is the one that meets the criteria of having high abundance of the Dahl's Toad-headed Turtle, vegetation along streams and the opportunity to purchase the land. The best way to reduce the current inbreeding of the species is to restore gene flow among subpopulations, either by assisted migration (e.g., translocation of individuals from one subpopulation to another) or by enhancing habitat connectivity (e.g., building habitat corridors). The property for purchase serves both purposes. (Photo: Dahl’s Turtle fitted with a transmitter to track species movement in real time. Photo by Turtle Survival Alliance.)