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Alejandro Fallabrino1, Andrés Estrades1 & Sabrina Clavijo-Baquet2
1Karumbé, Av. Giannattasio 30.5, El Pinar, Uruguay.
2Secc. Zoología Vertebrados, Fac. de Ciencias, UDELAR, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Map 1
The black spine-necked swamp turtle, Acanthochelys spixii, is one of the five freshwater turtles that
inhabits Uruguay (Achaval & Olmos 2003). In the region, it is found in Argentina (Paraná River, Corrientes
Province) and south of Brazil. In Uruguay is distributed in the northeast and east area (Map 1), in the
departments of Rocha, Rivera, Tacuarembó and Treinta y Tres (Carreira et al 2005). Rocha has the
highest number of records for this species.

Study area

From 2003, the organization Karumbé has worked throughout the

coast of Rocha to increase knowledge on the biology, ecology and
1 2 3
conservation status of the marine and freshwater turtles. This
research brings up to date the information for the A. spixii in the
newly created Cerro Verde Coastal-Marine Protected Area (CMPA –
Map 2) and zones of influence (33º 56´ S; 53º 30 W). The area is part
of the Bañados del Este y Franja Costera Biosphere Reserve
4 5 6 established in 1976 and is a RAMSAR site since 1982. It
encompasses a wide variety of ecosystems, such as rocky shores,
sand beach arcs, sand dunes, native woody and sandy vegetation,
Map 2 wetlands (e.g., lagoons, streams, creeks), islands, and the coastal
oceanic shelf.

Turtle data

The turtles from this research (December 2003/march 2007)

were found in small, permanent or temporary ponds; burrowed Conservation
(Photo 1-2-3), crossing pathways and roads inside the area.
Straight carapace length was measured from the nuchal notch In Uruguay this species is included in the “Official List of Species of
to the posterior tip of the supracaudals (SCLn-t) using a caliper the Wild Fauna” (Decree 514/001), protected by law (Decree 164/996)
measure (±± 1mm) (Photo 4). Other data collected is the tissue and categorized in the recent Red List of the Amphibians and
samples for future genetic studies. Reptiles of Uruguay with as Near Threatened (NT) species (Canavero
From a total of 25 turtles examined, 17 were adults (males and et press; IUCN 2006).
females – Photo 5), 6 were juveniles and 2 were hatchlings The principal threats on freshwater turtles of this region are the
(Photo 6) (Table 1). illegal trade (export and pet – Photo 8), habitat destruction (coastal
development) or degradation and being killed on roads (Photo 9).
Lack of information about this specie makes of vital importance its
investigation (ecology, biology, genetic, etc.) and to develop
conservation strategies. The area of Cerro Verde was highlighted as
a region of great importance and diversity of critical habitats for this
Some 3 hatchlings were found in clean water ponds with a The recent creation of this protected area (category "Habitat/Species
mean of 10 centimeters of profundity. All present their Management Area" described by the Decree 52/2005), the
carapace covered by algae. Others were found caving in hard 8
development of an effective management plan, the future integration
substrates, near the surface to a maximum deep of 50 of other coastal areas to the National System of Protected Areas
centimeters. Two observations of reproductive biology has (SNAP), are the first steps towards the reduction of the present
made. One female was found dead in march 2005, with several threats in the most important reproduction, developmental and
developing eggs inside (Photo 7). Only one nesting activity was foraging habitats for the black spine-necked swamp turtle in
recorded, a specimen maintained in Turtle Center laid five eggs 9
on April 2005, but no development occurred.

This work would not been possible without the collaboration from many Karumbé members, in specially Carlos Romero, and all the
volunteers from Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Spain, USA & England. We would also like to thank Luciana Alonso for assistance with


Achaval, F., and A. Olmos. 2003. Anfibios y Reptiles del Uruguay, 2da edición corregida y aumentada. Graphis, Montevideo. Uruguay.
Canavero A., S. Carreira, J. A. Langone, F. Achaval, C. Borteiro, A. Camargo, I. da Rosa, A. Estrades, A. Fallabrino, F. Kolenc, M. M. López-
Mendilaharsu, R. Maneyro, M. Meneghel, D. Nuñez, C. M. Prigioni and L. Ziegler. In press. Red list of the amphibians and reptiles of Uruguay.
Herpetological Conservation and Biology.
Carreira, S., M. Meneghel & F. Achaval. 2005. Reptiles del Uruguay. Sección Zoología de Vertebrados, Depto. de Biología Animal. Facultad de
Ciencias. Montevideo, Uruguay. 639 pp.