In order to conserve Hingebacks in the wild, we need to better understand their genetics, morphology, native range and ecology. Only then can we start to understand their conservation needs. TKC is currently raising funds to support Dr. Flora Ihlow's Kinixys field research in South Africa.
We appreciate your support for this important work!
On The Ground
Why in-situ field work is important to me
South Africa changed me as a person and as a keeper. David Mifsud and Paul Rabiega took me to RSA back in March of 2018. We set out to find all four Hingeback species that call the country home: K. spekii, K. lobatsiana, K. zombensis and K. natalensis. We spent two weeks and many long days in search of these crepuscular chelonians before heading down to the Cape to meet up with some colleagues. After finding multiple deceased specimens, we managed to find at least one of the following: Speke's Hinged Tortoise, Lobatse Hinged Tortoise and Eastern Hinged Tortoise. The only species that we were unsuccessful with was the Natal Hinged Tortoise. After seeing the habitat that they live in as well as some of their habits and diet, I went home with ample ideas for how to improve my captive husbandry.
My second trip to RSA took place in 2019 when I joined Dr. Flora Ihlow on a research trip focused on Kinixys lobatsiana. Her aim for this trip was to close as many sampling gaps as possible, and I was along for the ride. I shortly realized that my real job was to get us lost (expert navigator here), keep us as positive and upbeat as possible, supply tortoise humor, and find some Lobatse! I have never met a more dedicated human being in my life. Flora had us up early for morning tortoise activity, sweltering in the heat in the afternoon in search of terrapins (which I fell in love with thanks to her), and up late for evening tortoise activity. At the end of each day, we settled on a place to camp/call home for the night (though that was clearly our lowest priority). I quickly realized that Flora and I were going to work well together. We share a love for Kinixys and aren't afraid to get dirty... or bit by a Pelomedusa! On my first trip with Dave and Paul, I fell in love with the Lobatse Hingeback. We worked for five long/hot days straight to find a single adult male. I gained respect for the rugged life that these tortoises live. This trip compounded that love for the species tenfold. I was fortunate to see specimens from the outer known limits of their range - no two looked the same. I was able to join Flora on an adventure that I will never forget, and meet a life-long friend.
Don't get me wrong, I love my work as a private keeper here in the US, but working in the field with these incredible tortoises is what truly fills me up. My passion for Kinixys grows with each step that I take on their land. I am in this for the long haul. Let's keep this awesome, unique, beautiful hinged genus alive in the wild for many years to come!
I plan to be back in South Africa in 2021 as an assistant for Kinixys natalensis research. We are currently raising funds for Dr. Flora Ihlow (I will be paying my own way) through our shirts and sticker packs. More info on our page.