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The Nubian Flapshell turtle (Cyclanorbis elegans) is the most endangered turtle species of Africa. Cyclanorbis elegans is a large softshell (total carapace length up to 70 cm) historically known from localized occurrences in Ghana and northern Togo, in central Nigeria, southern Chad, and the White Nile basin (including the Sobat) of South Sudan and Sudan (Iverson, 1992; Gramentz, 2008). Occurrences in headwater or intervening countries, such as in Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, or Ethiopia, is plausible but remains unconfirmed. Chirio & Ineich (2006: 33) regarded the record of C. elegans by Joger (1990: 90) in Central African Republic as misidentified C. senegalensis. Gramentz (2008) questioned the record(s) from Cameroon (Chirio & LeBreton, 2007).
According to current data (Diagne T. 2010, Luiselli L. 2011), this species faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future due to lack of basic data on this species, habitat lost, and bushmeat trade. She is the largest softshell turtle of Africa, also lives in the mostly unexplored and unsecure area of Africa, a hotspot for biodiversity and conservation needs. The Nubian Flapshell turtle was believed near threatened (IUCN Red list, 1996 with a recommendation needs updating), however no alive specimens were observed in-situ during the past 25 years. Very little is known about the Nubian Flapshell Turtle’s current distribution, habitat type, biology, ecology, or status. Our project is addressing the distribution, status, and conservation of the Nubian Flapshell turtle. The Nubian Flapshell turtle is not yet included in the CITES convention. The last known captive specimen died in 2009.
Cyclanorbis elegans is now classified as Critically Endangered (CR) by the IUCN (IUCN Red List workshop, Togo, 2013). If no immediate action is taken, the Nubian Flapshell turtle could become extinct in the very near future.
The primary goal is to conduct a comprehensive assessment with the best scientific survey techniques of the distribution and current status of Cyclanorbis elegans in Chad, South Sudan, and Sudan in order to find possible remaining wild populations. In the meantime, a global assessment of all the freshwater softshell turtle species who might live in sympatry with this species will be carried out.
In the case when a wild population has been found, we then propose core conservation areas and emergency measures, in conjunction with the conservation government agencies, local groups, etc. to conserve viable populations of the Nubian Flapshell turtle and its natural habitat.
Lastly, we plan to establish an insurance colony (ex-situ) for this species as soon as possible, to collect basic information of the ecology and biology reproductive needs of the species.