The Forest Hinge-back Tortoises, Kinixys erosa and Kinixys homeana (Family Testudinidae), live in forest habitats and have a considerable range over the continuous Guinea–Congo rainforest region in West and Central Africa. It is a medium- to large-sized tortoise, with a carapace length not exceeding 400 mm. Kinixys is a unique genus of tortoises that can close themselves entirely within their shells as a result of a hinge on the carapace. The species inhabits the lowland evergreen forest, marshy areas, and forest galleries growing along rivers and streams, where it is locally threatened by clearance of forest for cultivation and hunting pressure. These species have an omnivorous diet, with mushrooms being predominant. Population size is strongly depressed in areas where these tortoises are actively hunted by human populations. The main threats for those species include subsistence hunting by local people in desperately poor economic conditions, agricultural and industrial expansion with deforestation, and trade for the pet industry. Strong conservation actions for these species are needed, but more field research on ecology, abundance, and survival status. There is also a need to establish protected areas that include viable populations of these tortoises through their natural range.
This project has three goals. The first of these is to enhance our assurance colony (ex-situ) for Kinixys erosa and Kinixys homeana and release head started and confiscated specimens to reinforce remaining wild populations.
We will also conduct an assessment, with the best scientific survey techniques, of the distribution and current status of these species in Benin and Nigeria. In the Oueme region southeastern Benin, where both species have been identified (Diagne T. and Azankpo F. 2010 pers.com.) living in sympatry in an area overlapping Nigeria we will collect information on the ecology, biology, and reproductive needs of the species.
We will also Establish a community-based conservation area in Benin to protect remaining wild populations, in conjunction with the conservation government agencies, local groups and Nature Tropicale ONG. We must conserve viable populations of those species in their natural habitat. In the meantime, a global assessment of all the freshwater turtle species in the region will be carried out.