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Save Papuan Freshwater Turtle 

Training on Identification Method for Irian Freshwater Tortoise

Baseline Data Collection of Pig-nose Tortoise Trade



Pignose Tortoise (Carettochelys insclupta)Irian Jaya region keeps a wide range wildlife habitat, ranges from coastal plain to the highest peaks in Oceania.  There are 235 species reptiles (89 snakes, 150 lizards, two crocodiles, six marine turtle and six tortoise) inhabit the region (Allison 1982).  

Some species of tortoises are New Guinean Tortoise (Chelodina novaguinea), Aramia Tortoise (Chelodina parkeri), Paniai Tortoise (Chelodina paniai), Gaokori Tortoise (Chelodina pritchardi), Digul Tortoise (Chelodina reimani), Estuary Tortoise (Chelodina siebenrocki), Red-stomach Tortoise (Elseya novaguinea), Lorentz Tortoise (Elseya schultzei), White Oval Tortoise (Emydura brunderhosti), Red Oval Tortoise (Emydura subglobosa), Pig-nose Tortoise (Carettochelys insclupta), New Guinean Labi-labi (Pelochelys bibroni), and Pelochelys cantorii.

Irian Jaya tortoises received a high value in some pet market in Jakarta, Surabaya and Denpasar as well as imported to Hong Kong as tonic component.  The species is unique in its shape and color as well as easy to keep as pet.

Even though the species is protected by the Decree of Ministry of Agriculture No. 327/Kpts/Um/5/1987, smuggling of the Pig-nose Tortoise (Carrethocelys insculpta) still occurred and tensely increasing.  The species sent through Merauke,  Timika in thousands number.  On the other hand, its growth is too slow reaches about 10 years to adult, while population of natural predators (monitor lizards, feral pigs, dog and man) are grown.

Many species has not been identified for some reasons:

  • Lack of knowledge on species identification that makes inaccurate taxonomy

  • Lack of knowledge on survey methodology of population and habitat that makes lack of information

Since the population information is not available, its habitat is also less known and make difficult to determine the trade quota.  In order to obtain more information on the species and its habitat, WWF Sahul Bioregion conducted some activities in Merauke, including:

  1. Training on Species Determination Methodology of Irian Jaya Freshwater Tortoises

  2. Survey on Population and Habitat of Pig-nose Tortoises

  3. Baseline Survey on Pig-nose Tortoise Trade

  4. Research on Pig-nose Tortoise Hatchery.


To reduce the extinction of Irian Jaya Freshwater Tortoise in its natural habitat


  1. Training on Species Determination Methodology of Irian Jaya Freshwater Tortoises

  • Provide training on survey method

  • Promote staff knowledge on species determination

  1. Survey on Population and Habitat of Pig-nose Tortoises (Carrethocelys insculpta) in Asmat, Lorentz National Park and Merauke

  • Determine the ecological parameter of species habitat, including pH, Dissolved Oxygen, temperature, salinity and turbidity

  • Determine its natural dietary

  • Determine the sex ratio and its predators

  • Determine the nest condition and its ecological parameters (soil textures, depth temperature and moisture

  1. Research on Pig-nose Tortoise (Carrethocelys insculpta) Hatchery.

  • Determine the alternative dietary in hatchery

  • Hatching natural origin eggs in artificial nest.

Expected Output

  1. Training:

  • Participants receive information on inventory method of Irian Jaya tortoises.

  • Promotion of knowledge on Irian Jaya tortoise species

  • Participants will be able to determine the species and its population

  1. Survey on population:

  • Data on ecological parameters of pig-nose tortoise (Caretthocelys insculpta) habitat as well as other species found.  Parameter includes pH, Dissolved Oxygen, temperature, salinity and turbidity

  • Data on natural diet and population size in Asmat and Lorentz National Park

  • Data of sex ratio in nature and its predator

  • Data on nests condition and ecological parameter (soil texture, depth temperature and moisture)

  1. Culture research:

  • Data on alternative diet in culture

  • Reports on experiment activities of natural egg hatching in artificial nest

  • Provide training on survey method

  • Increasing staff knowledge on species determination and method

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Training conducted in Merauke on 6 August 1999 and 21 people attended this program, including  Wasur National Park Authority; Merauke Nature Conservation Office; Irian Jaya I Regional Nature Conservation Office, Jayapura; Irian Jaya II Regional Nature Conservation Office, Sorong; Biology Department of Cenderawasih University, Jayapura; Forestry Department Cenderawasih University, Manokwari; Quarantine Agency; Fisheries Agency; CV Surya Kencana (Suppliers); Head of Suator Subdistrict; Wasur Lestari Foundation; Caritas Foundation; and Almamater Foundation.

Training activities combined both in class and field works in Wasur National Park under direction of Dr. Djoko T. Iskandar of Biology Department of Bandung Technology Institute and Burhan Tjaturadi of WWF Sahul.  Teaching material includes brief theory of tortoise and crocodile biology, GPS as geographical information collecting method and experience sharing. 


  1. Pig-nose Tortoise  (Carettochelys insclupta) Exploitation  in  Merauke's Friendschap River

  1. Taxonomy (Halliday, 1994)

Phylum:          Chordata

Sub Phylum: Vertebrata

Class:                 Reptilia

Order:               Testudinata

Sub order:       Cryptodira

Family:             Carettochelydidae

Genus:              Carettochelys

Species:           Carettochelydidae insculpta

  1. Morphology

  • Nose is soft and shapes as pig, 

  • spotted and soft carapace covered all body, 

  • front feet shapes as paddle, 

  • short neck, 

  • skin color: brownish gray, 

  • plastorn color: bone white,  

  • maximum length: 61 cm

  1. Physical and Chemical properties

  • Camp 1: average water pH 8.37; average DO 7.88 %, water temperature 22.43 C; salinity 0.22 ppm and light penetration 5.14 cm

  • Camp 2: average pH 8.324; average DO 10.3 %; water temperature 25.4 C; salinity 0 ppm; and light penetration 3.4 cm

  • Amai river: average pH 6.58; average DO 3.4 %; water temperature 25.75 C; salinity 2 ppm and light penetration 165.66 cm

  • Sand: average pH 6.76; average top sand temperature 38.5 C; average 15 cm depth sand temperature 29.41 C; average 23 cm depth sand temperature 27.25 C and moisture 10-12.5 %

  1. Feeding: Omnivores: Fichus and pandanus leaves, leafy vegetables and small fishes (Zug, 1993).

  2. Habitat: rivers and sandbank (for egg laying)

  3. Distribution: Southern part of Irian Jaya: Bupul, Friendschap, Einlanden and Brassa Rivers, Getentiri (Merauke),  Nakai and Sumapro (Asmat).

  4. Status: Appendix I CITES and Protected by  Minister of Agriculture Order No. 327/Kpts/Um/5/1987.

  5. Capturing method: Manual by hand (4.00-4.30 AM)

  6. Transporting method: boat transportation

  7. Hatching method:

  8. About 700-800 eggs put in 50 cm diameter-tray and filled by sand.  Egg keeps for 60-70 days to hatch.  Juvenile keeps in water filled bucket.

  9. Trade route (see fig. 1):

  • Senggo-Atsy-Kimaam-Merauke

  • Senggo-Atsy-Agats-Timika/Surabaya

  • Jinak-Binam-Atsy-Merauke/Timika

  • Jinak-Binam-Senggo-Merauke/Timika

  1. Price: Rp. 10,000-15,000 (in Senggo/Atsy), Rp. 30,000 (in Merauke/Timika) and Rp. 60,000-70,000 (Surabaya).

  2. Other uses: for local people diet (adult tortoise)

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  1. Experiment on Pig-nose Tortoise Culture (8 September-26 October 1999)

Seventy one eggs collected from four nests in Friendschap River, Merauke and cultured in WWF Wet Laboratory in Sentani, Jayapura.  Egg keeps inside  temperature controlled incubators for 70-90 days.

Results: 67 of 71 eggs hatched, four eggs damaged by infertility (2 eggs), imperfect embrio development (1 egg) and fungus (1 egg).

Average juvenile size: carapace length 5.5 cm and width 5.3 cm, plastron length 4.1 cm and width 3.6 cm and total weight 20.5 g.


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Copyright 2000 Conservation Science WWF Indonesia-Sahul Bioregion