November 30, 2005

Asian Mountain Tortoise Project Launched

A new project at a national park in western Thailand will focus on learning more about the home range and ecology of Manouria emys phayrei in the wild. 

The project was developed by Craig Stanford of the University of Southern California, and will be carried out over the next few years by Pratchayaporn Wanchai, a graduate student from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

An adult male Asian mountain tortoise found at 900 meters in western Thailand
An adult male Asian mountain tortoise found at 900 meters in western Thailand.

According to Craig, who just returned from Thailand, transmitters have been affixed to two turtles that have then been released back in the park.  One of the turtles was a juvenile, and was initially found submerged in a streamside mud wallow on the valley floor.  A second turtle, an adult male weighing 15 kg, was found at 900 meters elevation on a 50 degree slope ripping apart a banana plant beside the road.  During the first few initial days tracking the turtles, they were observed eating banana and wild ginger (Zingerberaceae), and in one unusual observation, the adult male was found basking in a sunny clearing.

Initially, searches focused on forest at higher elevation (500-900 meters), and park rangers claim that most Manouria emys are seen on the higher and steeper slopes well away from water. 

?The park seems to be an ideal study site? says Craig, who hopes to conduct similar studies elsewhere in the region as well.  ?The park is well protected and seems to have good turtle densities.? 

Craig noted that he is looking for a second student and funds to support the field studies that hopefully will be expanded to include the field research on the impressed tortoise Manouria impressa in northern forests.

The Asian brown tortoise, Manouria emys, is fully protected under the Thai Wild Animals
Reservation and Preservation Act. (WARPA) of 1992.  Manouria emys is also listed on Appendix II of CITES and is considered ?endangered? on the IUCN Red List of threatened fauna and flora.

For more information, please contact:

Craig Stanford
Departments of Anthropology and Biological Sciences
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0032
Ph. 213-740-1918

News note by ATCN staff  (with excerpts and information provided by Craig Stanford).