Life Below Water

Smiling Burmese Roofed Turtle Brought Back From Edge of Extinction

Image © Turtle Survival Alliance/Wildlife Conservation Society

Once the second most critically endangered turtle in the world, the species is no longer in danger of dying out.

Native to Myanmar, the Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata) has been brought back from the brink of extinction through an ambitious conservation initiative. In the 1990s, scientists could not find any trace of the species and presumed the river turtles had become extinct, mostly due to hunting and loss of habitat as a result of fishing. Nearly 20 years later, however, some were found by researchers in two separate rivers in Myanmar. A conservation programme was then set up in collaboration between the Myanmar Forest Department, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) to save the species from extinction.

The wild river turtles were transferred to a zoo where they could be monitored under natural and safe conditions. The Asian turtles are now recognised for their permanent smiles and bug-like eyes. According to a report by the New York Times, scientists have now increased the captive population of roofed turtles to nearly 1,000 as a result of the conservation programme. The species are no longer in danger of extinction and researchers plan to release them back into the wild where they can continue to monitor their nests and collect eggs for incubation. According to the president of the TSA, Rick Hudson, “This is one of the best global-level turtle conservation successes we have.”

Read more about the project to save the Burmese roofed turtle on the IUCN ‘Save Our Species’ website here.

Posted by Iona Chichester 10 November 2020

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