As is often the case, the Rakhine Yoma Elephant Sanctuary (RYER) in Myanmar provides refuge for a number of species beyond elephants. Here, a population of secretive Arakan Forest Turtles (Heosemys depressa) is providing clues to the species natural history that will prove valuable for conservation efforts in the future.
Hein Htet Lwin, a Phd candidate from Yangon University, in collaboration with Myanmar Forest Department rangers recently continued their monthly radio tracking on the Arakan Forest Turtles in the Sanctuary as part of a long-term study. Community rangers and hunting dogs help to find these elusive turtles, which are usually concealed among leaves and hidden in rock crevices. To date, radio transmitters have been affixed to 19 turtles, all of which are relocated 1-2 times per month, yielding valuable data on habitat preference, home range, growth rates, and survivorship.
The turtles appear to move very little during the dry season, and then become extremely active at the onset of the annual monsoon in late May or early June. During the wet season, movements of several kilometers have been reported. In addition to in-situ studies, an assurance colony of Arakan Forest Turtles is also being maintained at the sanctuary headquarters in Gwa. This year marked another successful breeding season for the captive program when four hatchlings emerged at the beginning of the wet season.