Considered ecologically extinct in the wild, Burmese star tortoise population has grown to more than 14,000 individuals | 10/11/2017 | Staff
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The Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota), a medium-sized tortoise found only in Myanmar's central dry zone, has been brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to an aggressive captive-breeding effort spearheaded by a team of conservationists and government partners.

Efforts to restore the tortoise are described in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Herpetological Review.

Tortoises - Number - Individuals - Population - Animals

The tortoises now number over 14,000 individuals, up from an estimated population of just a few hundred animals in the early 2000s. Burgeoning demand from wildlife markets in southern China beginning in the mid-1990s virtually wiped out the tortoise in a matter of years until viable populations could no longer be found, and the species was considered ecologically extinct.

In 2004, The Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division of the Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)/Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) Myanmar Program established three "assurance colonies" to hedge against the extinction of wild populations. The three colonies began with an estimated 175 individuals, mostly confiscated from illegal wildlife traffickers.

Colonies - Facilities - Sanctuaries - Colonies - Conservationists

The colonies were sited at facilities within existing wildlife sanctuaries. After the colonies were established, conservationists had to determine the species' husbandry requirements including diet, feeding, reproduction, and hatchling care. Herpetologists from WCS's Bronx Zoo helped design the breeding centers as well as provide husbandry expertise. In addition, veterinarians and molecular scientists from the Bronx Zoo conducted health screenings of the captive population to determine what diseases might be present (no major diseases of concern were discovered). Bronx Zoo vets continue to consult with WCS Myanmar vets on various health cases, confirming diagnoses and recommending treatment options.

Approximately 750 animals have been...
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