September 29, 2016
Small Turtle in Big Trouble
- as seen by -Avishai Shuter
The Roti Island snake-necked turtle is a small and fascinating species from the Indonesian island of Rote.
“Rotis”, with shells about seven inches long, are the second smallest snake-necked turtles in the family known as side-necked turtles. “Snake necks” are found in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and South America and are properly named due to their very long necks. While having such a long neck means that these turtles can’t pull their heads straight into their shells – they just curl their heads to the side when they feel threatened – the unusual trait allows them to catch their fast-moving prey. All snake necks, from the small Rotis, all the way up to their largest cousins, the giant snake-necked turtles with a shell length of about 12 1/2 inches, eat small fish and invertebrates.
Rotis are critically endangered and are believed to be nearly extinct in the wild. The major threats facing them are habitat destruction, illegal collection for the pet trade, and food consumption. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo currently has a group of these turtles which we hope to breed in the future. This interesting reptile can be seen in JungleWorld at the Bronx Zoo.