Breakout Year for Burmese Roofed Turtles

by Jordan Gray 

Yangon, Myanmar—TSA-Myanmar Director Kalyar Platt announced that this year’s hatching season for the critically endangered Burmese Roofed Turtle (Batagur trivittata) was record-breaking! At the recent conclusion of the hatching season, 223 of the grayish-green hatchlings had been produced between two of Myanmar’s four conservation facilities for the species.

Burmese Roofed Turtle
Batagur trivittata

A hatchling Burmese Roofed Turtle still displaying its egg tooth is held at the Limpha Village field station along the Upper Chindwin River.

With an all-time high number of eggs under incubation this year, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)/TSA Limpha Village field station, located along the Upper Chindwin River, produced an all-time-high 68 hatchlings. Located on the river’s banks, the Limpha Village field station is positioned to directly collect eggs deposited by wild females and translocate them to a protected on-site hatchery. In Mandalay, the Myanmar Forest Department’s program at the Yadanabon Zoo manages the only successful captive breeding colony for the species. There, the eggs are collected after deposition for artificial incubation, hatching, and rearing. This program produced an incredible 155 hatchlings in 2018—the results largely attributable to the addition of a new sand nesting bank with better sun exposure. This year’s 223 hatchlings will be reared at the respective facilities for 5 years before select individuals are identified for introduction to the wild.

Burmese Roofed Turtle

Myint Tun inspects a recently hatched Burmese Roofed Turtle in the hatchery at the Yadanabon Zoo in Mandalay.

One of the most-endangered of the Batagur genus, the fate of the Burmese Roofed Turtle rests upon a comprehensive multi-pronged conservation approach—the foundation of which is these hatchlings. This multi-institutional and multi-national effort utilizes the handful of naturally-occurring individuals remaining in the Upper Chindwin River, field research, monitoring, and nest protection stations, captive assurance colonies, captive-breeding and head start programs, and strategic release attempts. Currently, there are three national and one international assurance, captive-breeding, and rearing colonies for the Burmese Roofed Turtle. These cornerstone facilities, located at the Yadanabon Zoo, Lawkanandar Wildlife Sanctuary, Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary, and Singapore Zoo, now house well over 800 specimens of varying age-classes.

Burmese Roofed Turtle

Dr. Tint Lwin takes morphmetrics of hatchling Burmese Roofed Turtles at the Limpha Village field station.

This effort is supported by the WCS, TSA, Yadanabon Zoo, Myanmar Forest Department, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Panaphil Foundation, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.