South Sudan | Uganda

Preserving the Last Known Populations of the Nubian Flapshell Turtle

Turtle Survival Alliance partners with Luca Luiselli to preserve the last known populations of the Nubian Flapshell Turtle (Cyclanorbis elegans), and locate new ones, along the White Nile River in extreme northern Uganda and South Sudan. The Nubian Flapshell Turtle is one of the most imperiled turtle species in the world and regarded as Critically Endangered.

The species was suspected to have quietly gone extinct until it was formally rediscovered by Luiselli’s team in 2017 along the White Nile in South Sudan. Actions in South Sudan focus on protecting the three known nesting beaches on the White Nile, surveying for and documenting poached turtles in markets, and community engagement and awareness.

Field surveys in 2021 documented for the first time the Nubian Flapshell Turtle’s presence in Northern Uganda. There, current actions focus on documenting the distribution of the new populations, determining population size and conservation status of the species in Uganda, establishing community-based conservation initiatives focused on nest site monitoring and protection, and enhancing capacity for young scientists in Uganda to promote future in-country leadership in turtle conservation.

The long-term goal is to establish self-sustaining populations of Nubian Flapshell Turtle along the White Nile River in South Sudan and Uganda through an integrated conservation program. In South Sudan objectives to help meet this goal include:

1. Defining the known potential distribution of this species

2. Providing effective protection at the only three known nesting sites used communally by female turtles annually. This effort involves a community-based approach utilizing nest protection and beach monitoring methods

3. Conducting awareness campaigns with local communities and government agencies in order to enhance local protection for this exceedingly rare species

4. Enhancing public and institutional awareness of species status, both in South Sudan and elsewhere, by organizing a technical workshop with international specialists that will function as a consulting technical board, as well as a public outreach platform for the project

5. Creating a protected area for the explicit purpose of assuring a wild sanctuary for the survival of the species.

In Uganda where the species’ inhabitance is highly unknown, we are surveying the White Nile and its marshes just south of the border with South Sudan in an attempt to locate new individuals, better understand the turtles’ distribution, and organizing activities to enhance conservation awareness of the species among local riverside communities.

By detecting individuals, we aim to undertake a study to determine the species population size. Additionally, enhanced awareness of fishermen and local communities will minimize the risk that captured individuals will be killed.

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South Sudan | Uganda
Lead Partners and Supporters

Project Team

Luca Luiselli

Gift Simon Demaya