The Asian Giant Tortoise (Manouria emys phayrei) is the largest tortoise in Asia, growing up to 61 cm (24 in) in shell length and weighing up to 35 kg (77 lbs.). As hatchlings, these tortoises appear a grayish brown, and become more charcoal colored as they mature into adulthood.
The Asian Giant Tortoise can be found in the tropical and subtropical hill forests of Bangladesh, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore (extirpated), and Thailand. The tortoise plays an important role in maintaining ecosystem health through seed dispersal.
The Asian Giant Tortoise is considered to be one of the oldest tortoise lineages in the world. And these ancient tortoises share an interesting behavior with many crocodilians—to protect their eggs and maintain appropriate temperatures for incubation, female tortoises will gather a large pile of leaf litter and decomposing plant material on the forest floor, to lay their eggs.
Unfortunately, commercial hunting and destruction of forest habitat threaten this species.
To protect the majestic Manouria, Turtle Survival Alliance facilitates captive breeding efforts at the Turtle Survival Center, as well as collaborating with the Bangladesh Forest Department on a community-based conservation initiative to safely rewild these creatures in their native habitat. This program also supports field surveys, tracking and monitoring of the tortoises after their reintroduction.
Pictured: Asian Giant Tortoise (Manouria emys phayrei)
Countries of Origin: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Thailand
Habitat: Mountainous evergreen forests
Wild Population: Decreasing
IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered
Threats: Habitat destruction; collection for local consumption; foreign pet and meat trades
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