Behavioral of Asian forest tortoises
Page 4. Behavioral of Asian forest tortoises
If any wildlife conservation crisis is worse than that of the primates, it may be the turtles and tortoises of east Asia. Because of deforestation, consumption by people and collection for the pet trade, whole nations in east and southeastern Asia have been swept clean of their wildlife, and slow-moving, slow-reproducing animals such as tortoises have been impacted severely. I became involved in tortoise research and conservation in the early 2000’s. I am now collaborating with Thai researchers on rare and endangered tortoises in some of the same forests in which endangered Asian primates live.
The largest tortoise in Asia is the Asian forest tortoise, Manouria emys. It weighs up to 40 kilos and lives in mountainous rain forests from Myanmar south to Indonesia. It is poached to be eaten locally, or smuggled into other countries and destined for food markets or the pet trade. Manouria emys is thought to be quite primitive – females build mound nests for egg-laying, which they protect aggressively – but very little is known about them.
In collaboration with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and Dr. Kumthorn Thirakupt and his graduate student Pratyaporn Wanchai, we are conducting the first field study of this species in Kaeng Krachan National Park, 150 km southwest of Bangkok. The Kaeng Krachan ecosystem has a full complement of large Asian animals – tiger, leopard, elephant, and at least two little-studied langur monkey species. Our study was begun in 2005, with a focus on understanding the ecological requirements of the tortoise, its diet, movement patterns, and reproduction in the wild. We are also hoping to continue the study indefnitely to include data on population genetics, dispersal and demography. I also expand my research on this genus with a project on its equally threatened relative impressed tortoise, M. impressa.
Wanchai, P., K. Thirakhupt and C. Stanford.
Behavioral ecology of Manouria emys phayrei in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand: preliminary evidence. TSA meetings, Atlanta.( in 2007)