Conservation helps rare Myanmar tortoise population rebound to 14,000
From the 175 Myanmar star tortoises recovered in 2001 from a truck involved in illegal wildlife trade at the border with China, the tortoise population swelled to 14,000, said Dr Klayar, director of the Turtle Survival Association.
“The 175 star tortoises, which were to be sent to China, had been seized at the border. These were the last generation of our country’s star tortoises. Fortunately, they were retrieved. On Myanmar market, the species value equals that of a buffalo. Thus, many people capture them, so they are close to extinction,” said Dr Klayar.
The 175 recovered tortoises were under conservation program in rescue camps in Lawkananda, Min Zone Taung and Ban Bway village in Pyin Oo Lwin.
Nontheless, many difficulties remain, Dr Klayar explained.
“From the start, many issues arose: How to help them reproduce? what kind of food should we feed them? Within the first years, 50 tortoises had still not hatched. Gradually, they adapted and now, up to 5,000 tortoises hatched a year. We will do our best to avoid the extinction of star tortoise in our country. Star tortoises are helping plants to flourish in tropical areas.”
Star tortoises protection camp began in 1999 with six male and six female in Min Zon Taung Wildlife Sanctuary. Nowadays, the numbers of star tortoises in the sanctuary exceeds 2800, Min Zon Taung wildlife sanctuary administrator said.
“We started with 12 star tortoises in Min Zon Taung and now there are nearly 3000. Our aim is to release them to their natural habitats. We free tortoises between the age of 3 and 5. There are nearly 30 tortoises in the sanctuary which were born naturally. We only release healthy tortoises. We mark their shells and implant micro chips to know their where-abouts. We freed 300 tortoises in 2017,” Daw Lay Lay Khine, administrator of Min Zon Taung wildlife sanctuary told The Myanmar Times.
There are 26 species of land and freshwater turtles in Myanmar. Six species out of the 26 can only be found in Myanmar.