Every two years, Taronga extends its reach by awarding funding to other organisations and conservation projects around the world. Since launching the Field Conservation Grants in 2008, Taronga has provided funding and staff support to 70 vital programs. Projects that have benefited from a Taronga Field Conservation Grant have helped to regenerate habitats, mitigate human-wildlife conflict, reduce poaching and trafficking and create opportunities for people and wildlife to live side by side.
The Painted Terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) is a large and colourful turtle that used to occupy an extended range across South-East Asia. Today it is confined to the estuaries and mangroves of western Borneo, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and an isolated population in north-eastern Sumatra.
For several decades now, threats have included human consumption of turtles and their eggs, habitat destruction at nest sites, illegal poaching, fishing bycatch and accidental drowning in discarded netting
Through a Field Conservation Grant, Taronga has funded the ongoing field conservation work of the Satucita Foundation, a grass-roots partner of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), operating to protect the remaining Sumatran population of the iconic turtles.
The primary threat to this Aceh Province population is nest predation by introduced wild pigs. Headed by Mr. Joko Guntoro, the Satucita Foundation provides protection to this population with an active patrol presence throughout every night of the known nesting season, along a favoured nesting beach. Nightly patrols record nests and females, and then remove all detected eggs to a protected rookery to be hatched, marked and released.
So far this season, this rookery, and the efforts of the Satucita Foundation patrols, have seen the successful hatching of 61 eggs from seven nests. All hatchlings were marked and released to help restore the wild populations of this species. Marking the end of the hatchling season, this brings the historical total of successfully hatched and released Painted Terrapins up to 1,204; boosting the natural population of Aceh Province.
Of critical importance, the recent find of a single wild nest in Langkat, North Sumatra Province, shows promise of an adjacent population to that known in Aceh. Earlier this year, a nest of 24 eggs was found on the river bank of the Tuntong – ‘Tuntong’ also representing the local name of Painted Terrapins. This is the first time the species has been encountered in this region since 2010. These eggs were all removed and reburied at the same depth in the protected rookery. If their incubation proves successful, it is yet to be determined if these animals will be immediately released, or head-started to reproductive age before release.