Raising Awareness and Alleviating Threats on the Southernmost Vulnerable Tortoise in Patagonia, Argentina

Fernando Duran

This project focuses on the conservation of the Vulnerable tortoise Chelonoidis chilensis, especially in the southernmost population; east of the province of Rio Negro, Argentina, that faces serious threats among which stand out the illegal pet trade, and the Pomona water canal (195-km-long) in which hundreds of tortoises drown each year. The tortoise C. chilensis is included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) and categorized as Vulnerable at the national level (Prado et al. 2012) and by the IUCN (Red List of Threatened Species, IUCN 2014).

Chelonoidis chilensis in its natural habitat. © Fernando Duran

Chelonoidis chilensis in its natural habitat. © Fernando Duran

This project proposes to study the health status, body condition, immunological profile, and corticosterone concentration in individuals found in three different environmental conditions: individuals in their natural environment; individuals rescued from falling into a water channel (e.g., cause of acute stress); individuals in prolonged captivity due to mascotism (e.g., causing chronic stress). Our goal is to provide solutions to the decline of wild populations, devising, testing, and implementing proposals that prevent more tortoises from dying in the water canal, identifying hot spots of drowning, rescuing individuals, designing escape structures, and also, raising awareness in the community to avoid the pet trade from the extraction of wild specimens.

Header: 1Individual of a Chelonoidis chilensis tortoise found after being monitored. ©Erika Kubisch.

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