Chelodina mccordi, Roti Island snake-necked turtle
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The Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) is an extremely threatened turtle species from Rote Island south west of Timor between New Guinea and Australia. It belongs to the genus Chelodina (Australian snake-necked turtles) within the family of Side-necked turtles (Chelidae)
The Roti Island snake-necked turtle was split from the New Guinea snake-necked turtle and regarded as distinct species in 1994 after Dr. Anders Rhodin, director of the Chelonian Research Foundation in Lunenburg (Massachusetts), found out that there are differences between the two species. The first snake-necked turtles on Roti Island were discovered in 1891 by George Albert Boulenger. They were named for Dr. William McCord, a veterinary and turtle expert from Hopewell Junction, New York.
The carapace can reach a length between 18 and 24 centimetres. The length of the neck is similar. The color of the carapace is pale grey brown. Occasionally there are also specimens which have a chestnut coloured hue. The plastron is pale buff white. The neck is dark brown on the upperparts with round tubercles. The underparts are beige white. The iris is black surrounded by a white ring. Its habitat are swamps, rice terraces, and small lakes.
A clutch can consist of eight to fourteen eggs and it can have three breeding periods in one year. The size of the eggs is 30 x 20 mm and the weight can reach eight to ten grams. The first hatchlings come after three months, the last after four months. When they hatch they have a size of 28 x 20 mm and they have yellow spots on the plastron which become darker with the time until the plastron becomes almost black after a few weeks. During the growing period the coloring becomes more pale until they finally reach the color of the adults.
The Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle is one of the most desired turtles in the international pet trade. Even before it was scientifically described it was so over-collected that the legal trade was prohibited in 2001 due to its rarity. The two or three remaining populations live in an area of only 70 km² in the central highlands of Roti Island. It is still illegally captured and it is often offered on markets under the label of the New Guinea Snake-necked Turtle which is also legally protected. In 2004 it was listed in Appendix II of CITES.
Outside of capture by humans there are few natural threats to this species. There are some reports of predation by feral pigs (Sus Scrofa) and loss of habitat, however illegal capture and trade remains the primary threat.