The Turtles of Western Thailand—
Pushed to the Edge by Progress

Adult female elongated tortoise or yellow tortoise, Indotestudo elongata, Thailand’s most abundant tortoise species but in decline over most of its range.  (Photo by Peter Paul van Dijk.)


1 Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University,
Phya Thai Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand  /  e-mail:
2 Department of Zoology, University College Galway, Galway, Ireland
e-mail: Peter.vanDijk@UCG.IE  or

     ABSTRACT:  Turtles and other wildlife in Southeast Asia are under serious pressure from exploitation and habitat alteration.  Our survey of turtles of western Thailand indicated that populations of several species, particularly the tortoises Indotestudo elongata, Manouria emys, and M. impressa, have been severely depleted in the last few decades.  The construction of multipurpose reservoirs in the upper reaches of the Mae Klong River basin, their effects on downstream habitats, and other developments in and along the river have been detrimental to turtles that live in the river and nearby areas.  Some turtle species not native to the river basin have been released into the reservoirs in efforts to increase their bioproductivity.  Large areas of forest in western Thailand have been designated as sanctuaries for wildlife, and a great diversity of turtle species occurs there in relative safety.  Forest fires and other factors still constitute a threat to the integrity of the ecosystem of these sanctuaries, and fire prevention is therefore the main priority for sanctuary management.  A number of turtle species that do not or scarcely occur in protected areas, although legally protected from exploitation, are in a critical situation and need urgent conservation action.  Pelochelys cantorii recently disappeared from the Mae Klong basin, and a local endemic species of Chitra (C. chitra) is highly endangered.

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