The Coahuilan Box Turtle, Terrapene coahuila (Family Emydidae), endemic to the Cuatro Ciénegas Basin of central Coahuila, Mexico, is internationally recognized as endangered due to its naturally restricted geographic range and substantial loss of habitat in the past half-century. The only extant aquatic member of the genus, T. coahuila is a small species (carapace length to 230 mm) that occupies shallow wetland habitats distributed across the Cuatro Ciénegas valley floor. Water diversion from man-made canals within the basin, and groundwater exploitation in contributing aquifers outside of the basin, have lowered the valley’s water table and resulted in widespread wetland habitat desiccation, thus jeopardizing the species’ viability. The most extensive aquatic habitat loss has occurred in the western portion of the basin, west and northwest of Sierra de San Marcos y Pinos, where a genetically distinct subpopulation of T. coahuila resides. Habitat loss threatens the persistence of T. coahuila, and if not curtailed, will lead to the extinction of the species in the wild in Cuatro Ciénegas. Proposed conservation measures include: 1) upgrading the species’ conservation status with the Mexican government from a Species of Special Protection to Endangered, 2) formulating an integrative species management plan with the Mexican government that includes local and regional regulation and monitoring of water extraction to ensure persistence of critical wetland habitats, 3) long-term monitoring of key populations, including estimation of population size and density, 4) identification and preservation of critical dispersal corridors associated with long-distance movements of migratory populations, and 5) measures to reduce road mortality.
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