6.350 Pig-Snouted Turtles (Carettochelys Insculpta) Return to Asmat

13 February 2015   |   CSR News

The thwarting of attempted smuggling of contraband pig-snouted turtles in Mozes Kilangin Airport some time ago subsequently led to the uncovering of an illegal trafficking ring  in Bali and Jakarta. After the pig-snouted turtle hatchlings were seized, they were immediately sent to Timika. In conjunction with Natural Resources Conservation Center (BBKSDA) and the local Animal Quarantine agency, PTFI by way of the environmental and nature conservation section of its Environmental Department again assisted and facilitated efforts to return this wildlife to their natural habitat in Papua.

Following their seizure, the turtles were held and restored to health in an animal quarantine compound for several weeks. Having recovered, they were ready to be returned to their natural habitat in the waters of Asmat Regency. The release of the turtles into the wild was carried out under a collaboration between the Environmental Ministry’s Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation and Papua BBKSDA, with support from  PTFI.

On Saturday (7/2), the pig-snouted turtles were put aboard an Airfast helicopter belonging to PTFI, and flown to Asmat Regency. Upon arriving in Asmat Regency’s Ewer Airport, the turtles were then transported by speedboat to Agats. The release into the wild of 6,350 pig-snouted turtle hatchlings was carried out on Sunday (8/2) in the Rawa Baki marshlands in Kampung Atsi, Agats District, Asmat Regency.

Papua BBKSDA chief Gulung Nababan who personally oversaw the release-into-the-wild effort in Asmat said, “Pig-snouted turtles are vulnerable to illegal trafficking because of the high price they fetch. This rare and endangered animal is even smuggled abroad, to China, Thailand and Japan. This imposes on us a great and challenging responsibility. Pig-snouted turtles are only found in the waters of southern Papua. If massive trafficking of the pig-snouted turtles is allowed to continue, at some point they will become extinct. Maximum collaboration is needed among the police, the quarantine agency, BKSDA and the government. We (BKSDA) exercise extreme caution in handling this matter in light of the interests involved; a protection and conservation system is needed to allow us to conserve the turtles, which are endemic to the Asmat region, in their natural habitat.” 

On the same time, Gulung Nababan also like to thank to PTFI who have helped and cooperated since the last few years. "I as a representative of Papua BBKSDA thank to PT Freeport Indonesia which has been facilitated, ranging from the delivery from Jakarta, Bali and until the release in their home areas." He said.

The release into the wild of the pig-snouted turtles has elicited positive response from the Asmat government. Asmat Regency Third Assistant to the Regional Secretary, Muhammad Iqbal greeted the arrival of the pig-snouted turtles at the Agats port on Saturday (7/2). Muhammad Iqbal thanked all involved for their hard work, and PTFI for its support in returning the animals to their natural habitat.

Since 2006, PTFI has been facilitating the repatriation of pig-snouted turtles, as part of commitment by the company operating in Papua towards conserving the region’s high level of biodiversity. PTFI has been working together with the Forestry Ministry’s Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation by way of BBKSDA Papua since 2006. In 2013, 26,000 pig-snouted turtles were released into the wild. In early 2014, the company again participated in a collaboration to release 2,534 turtles into the Otakwa waters in Mimika Timur District,  and another 5,553 into the Rawa Baki marshland in Asmat.

This aquatic animal is native to Indonesia, specifically to Papua. The pig-snouted turtles (Carettochelys insculpta), also known as fly-river turtles are to be found in the rivers of Papua. The turtles are full aquatic animals in that they live their entire lives in water. The turtles only venture on land when they are about to lay eggs. A distinct feature of the turtles is their webbed feet, similar to those of sea turtles, which make them well-adapted to aquatic life.  The turtles acquired their ‘pig-snouted’ name from the similarity of their snouts with those of pigs. They have thicker shells (carapaces) than most other turtles, although they are closer to the soft-shell species. Also like other turtles, their upper bodies are covered by a carapace, and they have dark grey feet, while their lower bodies are of a brighter color, providing them with camouflage against predators. Pig-snouted turtles grow to a considerable size, and can weigh up to 22.5 kg and attain a length of 56 cm. (Hendrikus)

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