Myanmar star tortoise population surprisingly recovers on the brink of extinction

By TWA

Myanmar star tortoise (Geochelone Platynota) was a critically endangered species of tortoise in Myanmar by the red-list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, pushing nature conservationists to intensify conservation movements.
They live in arid ecosystems and their habitats are mostly found in Mandalay, Magway and Sagaing regions. They are locally called by different names (star tortoise, spider tortoise, flower tortoise, golden tortoise, Nat tortoise).
Myanmar star tortoise from the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary in Magway Region, which was recognized as an endangered species at the risk of extinction. The trial captive breeding of tortoises in outdoor fencing reaped successful results and the star tortoise population has increased to 2,027 in 2022 from 297 in 2014, as per the surveys of the sanctuary.
There has been a total of captive-bred 8,788 star tortoises in Lawkananda Wildlife Sanctuary and 2,650 were set into the wild as of June 2022, totaling 11,438 star tortoises.
There are three star tortoise farms such as Shwesettaw, Mintsonetaung and Lawkananda. The majority of star tortoises belong to Lawkananda farm in Bagan.
The female tortoises lay eggs three to five times a year. They normally dig holes for three hours to lay eggs on the ground and then, carefully cover up the eggs so that baby tortoises can climb up the hole and the tortoise eggs are protected from predation and extreme weather conditions. The width of the hole is four inches and the depth is six inches.
The female tortoises lay four eggs per clutch for the first time and nine eggs for the second time. The production rate varies depending on time.
The star tortoise hatching season is from late September to May. Hatching time is three to nine months so a board is installed eight inches away from a hole. The crew of the sanctuary and officials record the registration number of the tortoise, egg-laying date, number of eggs, hatching times and direction to the tortoise’s hole in the board.
The tortoise eggs laid in June-July are ruined if it doesn’t hatch until August. The lifespan of a tortoise is 80-100 years. The hatching success rate is 50 to 70 per cent due to high temperature and sandy ground in Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary.
Healthcare service and common symptoms
The tortoise is bred in the outdoor fence made of stone blocks. The feed is water spinach, gourd, Chinese cabbage and watermelon. When the baby tortoises have weight loss problems, they have to take medicine to treat worms. The symptoms such as stones in the kidney caused by dehydration, runny nose, loss of appetite, eye sore, dizziness and keeping the mouth open are found, and they need to be treated by vets.
Rare star tortoises in danger of extinction
A surge in demand in villages drives tortoises to a high risk of extinction and the villagers hunt them down with greyhounds. Illegitimate trade, the trend of tortoise pets by elite people, deforestation in their habitats and turning the forest into farmlands are contributing factors to the risk of extinction. Therefore, captive breeding of tortoises is fostered to prevent them from extinction.
Wildlife Sanctuary crew, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation is stepping up conservation efforts to protect rare species and other tortoise species endemic to Myanmar (Rakhine mountain tortoises, smooth soft-shell turtle, speckled tortoise, striped turtle, Myanmar roofed turtle and Myanmar-eyed turtle) facing extinction like the star tortoise at the wildlife sanctuaries.
Conservation of endangered species
Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 14 mammal species, 43 amphibian species, 39 butterfly species, 113 bird species, white-throated babbler, hooded tree pie, skylark, Jerdon’s minivet, golden deer and star tortoises. Those endangered and threatened species are listed in the protected list under the management and conservation of the officials concerned of the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary Division.
Translated/EM

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