by Steve Platt
Sitting astride the southern border of China, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has been on the frontlines of the battle to save Asia’s imperiled chelonian fauna ever since the global conservation community first became aware of the Asian Turtle Crisis in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, resources for conservation are scarce in this impoverished nation, and as a consequence poachers and illegal wildlife traffickers have run rampant, decimating turtle populations throughout the country.
Nonetheless, the Myanmar Forest Department takes threats to its biodiversity seriously, and is making a determined effort to stem the hemorrhage of turtles from within its borders. Enforcement efforts, however are hampered by a lack of turtle identification skills among customs officers, police, and Forest Department personnel manning border checkpoints. To help address this deficiency, the Forest Department requested that the Turtle Survival Alliance/Wildlife Conservation Society’s Myanmar Program prepare a simple, easy-to-use guidebook on the tortoises and freshwater turtles of Myanmar.
This guidebook was completed in late July 2012 and contains photographs and a brief account for every species of chelonian found in Myanmar (a total of 25 native species, including eight endemic forms and one introduced species). Although written for a Burmese audience, the guidebook also contains an English translation of each account. In addition to law enforcement personnel, the guidebook will be distributed free-of-charge to wildlife rangers and zoo staff, as well as schools, public libraries, and local conservation organizations. Given the almost total lack of lack of academic resources in the country, the guidebook will be a valuable tool for those working in conservation, as well as people simply interested in turtles and natural history. The guidebook is now being offered for sale through the TSA website (click here to purchase), and proceeds will go towards the printing and distribution of additional books in Myanmar. In fact, the sale of a single book in the US will allow us to print and distribute 20 books in Myanmar!