Nav: Home

Star tortoise makes meteoric comeback

October 11, 2017

YANGON, MYANMAR (October 11, 2017) - The Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota), a medium-sized tortoise found only in Myanmar's central dry zone, has been brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to an aggressive captive-breeding effort spearheaded by a team of conservationists and government partners.

Efforts to restore the tortoise are described in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Herpetological Review.

The tortoises now number over 14,000 individuals, up from an estimated population of just a few hundred animals in the early 2000s. Burgeoning demand from wildlife markets in southern China beginning in the mid-1990s virtually wiped out the tortoise in a matter of years until viable populations could no longer be found, and the species was considered ecologically extinct.

In 2004, The Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division of the Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)/Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) Myanmar Program established three "assurance colonies" to hedge against the extinction of wild populations. The three colonies began with an estimated 175 individuals, mostly confiscated from illegal wildlife traffickers.

The colonies were sited at facilities within existing wildlife sanctuaries. After the colonies were established, conservationists had to determine the species' husbandry requirements including diet, feeding, reproduction, and hatchling care. Herpetologists from WCS's Bronx Zoo helped design the breeding centers as well as provide husbandry expertise. In addition, veterinarians and molecular scientists from the Bronx Zoo conducted health screenings of the captive population to determine what diseases might be present (no major diseases of concern were discovered). Bronx Zoo vets continue to consult with WCS Myanmar vets on various health cases, confirming diagnoses and recommending treatment options.

Approximately 750 animals have been released into wild areas of the sanctuaries, and the long term objective of restoring viable populations in every protected area in the central dry zone is now biologically attainable. However, political and social challenges need to be resolved before large-scale reintroduction takes place to ensure the tortoises are not taken by poachers.

Said lead author Steven Platt, a herpetologist with WCS's Myanmar Program: "This is the modern day equivalent of saving the bison from extinction. A team of conservationists spearheaded an aggressive captive breeding effort, and have brought an animal back from the brink to where it now has the potential to be reintroduced into the wild in large numbers."

Said Andrew Walde, Chief Operating Officer of Turtle Survival Alliance: "The Myanmar WCS/TSA partnership is a model chelonian conservation success story. If you had told me more than 10 years ago when the project started that we would have more than 10,000 Burmese Star tortoises, and that we would have returned nearly a thousand to the wild, I wouldn't have believed it. It is success stories like this that make all the hard work worth it."

WCS works to save turtles and tortoises around the world. In 2012, WCS launched an organization-wide program to revive some of the most endangered turtle and tortoise species. Efforts include breeding programs at the Bronx Zoo in New York, head-start programs abroad, and working with governments and communities to save species on the brink of extinction.

WCS tortoise conservation in Myanmar is supported by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, the Panaphil and Uphill Foundations, and the Turtle Conservation Fund.
-end-
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world's oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.

Wildlife Conservation Society

Related Species Articles:

Directed species loss from species-rich forests strongly decreases productivity
At high species richness, directed loss, but not random loss, of tree species strongly decreases forest productivity.
What is an endangered species?
What makes for an endangered species classification isn't always obvious.
One species, many origins
In a paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, a group of researchers argue that our evolutionary past must be understood as the outcome of dynamic changes in connectivity, or gene flow, between early humans scattered across Africa.
Species on the move
A total of 55 animal species in the UK have been displaced from their natural ranges or enabled to arrive for the first time on UK shores because of climate change over the last 10 years (2008-2018) -- as revealed in a new study published today by scientists at international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London).
Chasing species' 'intactness'
In an effort to better protect the world's last ecologically intact ecosystems, researchers developed a new metric called 'The Last of the Wild in Each Ecoregion' (LWE), which aimed to quantify the most intact parts of each ecoregion.
How do species adapt to their surroundings?
Several fish species can change sex as needed. Other species adapt to their surroundings by living long lives -- or by living shorter lives and having lots of offspring.
Five new frog species from Madagascar
Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich and the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology have named five new species of frogs found across the island of Madagascar.
How new species arise in the sea
How can a species split into several new species if they still live close to each other and are able to interbreed?
How new species emerge
International research team reconstructs the evolutionary history of baboons.
What makes two species different?
For most of the 20th century, scientists believed that the reproductive incompatibility between species evolved gradually as a by-product of adapting to different environments.
More Species News and Species Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.