Endangered tortoises kept for breeding
A pair of endangered shore tortoises are being kept at a sanctuary with the help of the Forest Department.
The country is apparently now left with three shore tortoises: one in the pond at the Botahtaung Pagoda compound in Yangon and the other two at a pool near a monastery in Ywarlut village in Mon State.
The village tortoises are being kept on an artificial shore to encourage reproduction, said Min Thein Myint, director of the state forest department.
“The WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) will check the health of the tortoises every three or four months,” said the director. “We will help keep the lake and environment clean.”
The villagers did not want to give up the tortoises to the WCS but were happy to commit to handing over the future offspring, he added.
Win Ko Ko, technical coordinator at the WCS, said that tortoises could reproduce throughout their life and the eggs needed sandy and dry grounds to survive.
“We made a sandy shore for the tortoises on December 16. We give financial support and the village administrator will cooperate with us.”
The tortoises were estimated to be over 90 years old, said Win Ko Ko referencing information dating back to 2015.
The Myanmar population of the ancient creatures is on the brink of annihilation.
Kalyar, managing director of Turtle Survival Alliance at the WCS, said: “Since the beginning of our survey in 1999, we’ve found only these three shore tortoises alive. The rest we discovered were carcasses. They have been on the brink of extinction over the last two decades.”
The conservationist blamed excessive fishing, deforestation, polluted rivers and deteriorating sandbanks for the tortoises’ threatened existence.
The rivers overflowed because of deforestation and silts accumulated above historical levels, ruining sandy shores necessary for the eggs to survive.
“The water in the mud can enter tortoise eggs by passing through the shell. And when it does, the embryo inside drowns,” she said. “People also hunt the tortoises and eggs for food and with a commercial purpose.”
The country is home to 26 different species of tortoise and turtles, the fourth most biologically diversified in the region after Indonesia, India and Vietnam and the seventh in the world.