Indonesia: East Nusa Tenggara Protects Critical Rote Island Habitat

The Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle:

Congratulations to East Nusa Tenggara for establishing the Rote Essential Ecosystem Areas in an effort to protect and reintroduce this iconic species! The designation of the three lakes (Peto, Lendoen and Ledulu) as KEE is a very good effort for the protection of the LAST FEASIBLE HABITAT of the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle.

Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) (Photo: Maslim As-singkily / WCS-IP)

"The establishment of the Rote Essential Ecosystem Area is an extremely important milestone for protecting the habitat of Chelodina mccordi and helps to ensure that this species will once again have a place to live freely in nature." 

Cris Hagen, Director of Animal Management, Turtle Survival Alliance


(Bogor, Indonesia – July 2019 ) – WCS Indonesia expresses its high appreciation to the Government of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) for establishing a Wetland Essential Ecosystem Area (KEE) as the habitat for the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi) in Rote Ndao District on June 18, 2019.

WCS Indonesia director Noviar Andayani welcomes the issuance of the Governor's Decree on the KEE establishment in Rote Ndao District. Noviar says, "The issuance of the decree reflects the commitment and seriousness of the regional government in protecting the Roti Island Snake-necked turtle which can no longer be found in Rote Island’s aquatic ecosystems which used to serve as the natural habitat for the island’s endemic and iconic species."

The Head of NTT LHK Agency Ir. Ferdy J. Kapitan, M.Sc (left), Head of BBKSDA NTT Ir. Timbul Batubara, M.Sc (Right) and Country Director of WCS-IP Dr. Noviar Andayani (right) at the event of Rote turtle assurance colony facility handover in Kupang (Photo: WCS-IP)

"We also express our high appreciation to the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BBKSDA) of NTT, Environment and Forestry Research and Development Agency of Kupang (BALITBANG LHK Kupang) and Department of Environment and Forestry of NTT for all of the efforts that have been made to restore wildlife population in the wild."

"As a partner, WCS-IP is ready to support the BBKSDA and the Provincial Government of NTT in bringing home the snake-necked turtle from various ex-situ institutions abroad in order to prepare them as captive-bred population ready to be reintroduced to Rote Island. We hope that this commitment is supported by all parties, especially the locals living around the snake-necked turtle habitat who are the most important stakeholders in the effort to restore the species population in the wild. We believe that protecting the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle and its habitat means preserving a water source that is vital for the Rote Ndao community."

Lendoen Lake, Landuleku Rote (Photo: Maslim As-singkily/WCS-IP)

The Head of the Department of Environment and Forestry of NTT, Ferdy J. Kapitan, says that the designation of KEE is a manifestation of the regional government's commitment to safeguarding and preserving the natural resources bestowed by God and is expected to have an impact in terms of improving the economy and people's welfare through the management of this rare species’ ecosystem as one of the new tourism destinations in NTT.

As a further elaboration of the Governor's Decree, the management of KEE will be carried out in intensive collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Rote Ndao District Government, Universities, local communities, WCS and other relevant agencies.

"For us, maintaining and preserving this endemic species of the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle is not only an obligation, but also a necessity that must be implemented continuously from generation to generation, involving the government, private entities and communities" he says.

Meanwhile, Head of BBKSDA NTT, Timbul Batubara says that the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle is Rote’s endemic species that is now difficult to find in the wild. This species has been protected since 2018 based on Environment and Forestry Minister Regulation No. 106.

"The issuance of the Governor Decree number 204 of 2019 is extraordinary and we are very grateful for that. This is a bridge in the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle habitat management that must be implemented in an integrated manner between various stakeholders. With this decree, all parties must work together for the preservation of the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle, " Head of BBKSDA NTT, Timbul Batubara explains.

According to Timbul, the BBKSDA NTT and Balitbang LHK Kupang, with support from WCS Indonesia and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), has implemented the initiative of the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle reintroduction program since 2016, in an effort to prevent the species from being locally extinct.

WRS contributes by helping to increase the number of Roti Island Snake-necked Turtles through breeding programs and bringing in animals from existing populations under human care to prepare them to be repatriated and reintroduced to Rote Island. A collection is also being displayed at Singapore Zoo’s RepTopia exhibit to drive awareness of this species to the public.

“WRS is fully committed to supporting the conservation of the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle and stands ready to provide assistance in the management of assurance colony facilities currently owned by NTT BBKSDA. This is a perfect example of a One-Plan Approach to Conservation, where we come together to collaborate for the ultimate goal of ensuring a safe future for these unique turtles in their native homes on Rote Island,” said Dr Sonja Luz, Director, Conservation & Research, and Veterinary Services, WRS.

This KEE designation is the beginning and a stepping stone in the efforts of restoring the population of the Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle in the wild. More concrete and continuous efforts are needed to achieve this. The commitment from the local government and various stakeholders has shown a new future for the endemic Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle.


Essential Ecosystem Areas abbreviated as KEE are ecosystems outside the Nature Reserve Area and / or Nature Conservation Areas that have important values that ecologically support the continuity of life through biodiversity conservation efforts for community welfare and human quality of life which are designated as protected areas.


The Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi) is one of 32 turtle species found in Indonesia and is listed as one of the world's 25 rarest turtles (Turtle Conservation Coalition, 2018). Since 2018, IUCN has put Chelodina mccordi population on Rote Island under critically endangered - possibly extinct in nature status (CR-PEW).