Myanmar roofed turtles were sent to zoos in Myanmar and Singapore which are protecting the marine reptiles, included in the critically endangered species of the world, incaptive breeding, before releasing them back into the nature, said U Hla Naing, Deputy Country Director of Wildlife Conservation Society Myanmar (WCS Myanmar).
“We have wildlife sanctuaries and natural parks in our country. We incubated the turtle eggs in a natural way at such places, and systematically raise the juveniles in captivity at places like Yangon Zoo, Mandalay Zoo and Lawkananda Park. We spread them, so there may be survivals in case a disease breaks out among them. Natural conservation areas are in Hkamhti at the upper reaches of Chindwin River. In the past, the roofed turtle were also naturally conserved at Yadanabon Park in Mandalay. We are now incubating the eggs at Yangon Zoological Gardens,but the marine reptiles are still under special care in Yadanabon Zoo of Mandalay. We are afraid that they all might be wiped out by a disease caused by climate change in Myanmar. So, we sent some of them to Singapore Zoo,”the official of WCS Myanmar said.
“We are rearing the juveniles till they become matured enough to go back to their native place. As the upper Chindwin River is their only home in Myanmar and in the world, we are sending back the adults to the upper stretches of the natural watercourses in cooperation with the local elders,”U Hla Naing added.
“We have sent 50 roofed turtles to Yangon Zoo and about 500 to Mandalay Zoo, and they are producing about 200 hatchlings a year. In 2006, we transported 25 roofed turtles to Singapore Zoo. But, the reproduction has not started yet in Lawkananda and Htamanthi,” explained Dr Kalaya, country director of Turtle Survival Alliance(TSA).
Once, large numbers of Myanmar roofed turtles can be found along the major rivers of Myanmar, but they have become critically endangered now for various reasons including over harvesting and consumption of the turtle eggs, accidental deaths caused by fishing nets, loss of egg laying grounds due to contamination caused by gold panning along the river banks, and poaching. The turtles were regarded extinct during the period between 1990 and 2000 before they were spotted at two places, according to TSA.
The Forest Department of Mya-nmar in cooperation with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) has accelerated the task of conserving the Myanmar roofed turtles, once thought to be extinct.Members of the three bodies collected the eggs laid by the few remaining female roofed turtles on the sand banks of Chindwin River in the north of Myanmar in February and March annually, and conveyed them to nearby villages for safe incubation during the period from May to June.
Hatchlings are reared in captivity for five or six years before releasing back into the wild. The safe incubation of eggs is also carrying out at the zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in Myanmar.Roofed turtles hatched and reared at Mandalay Zoo, and sent to Yangon Zoo on April 2019 were regarded still young for reproduction. But, the females started laying eggs on the wide sand bank of an artificial lake within a year. The Yangon Zoo now has four newborns and more will come out of their shells later. It is the first successful egg laying and hatching of the adult Myanmar roofed turtles raised in captivity, according to WCS Myanmar.
“The roofed turtle, the star tortoise and the Arakan forest turtles of Myanmar are included in the 25 rare species of their kind in the world. Of the 26 freshwater turtle species of Myanmar 12 are facing near extinction. But the FD, WCS Myanmar and TSA are carrying out incubation and captive breeding of the turtles and releasing them into wild,” said Dr Kalya.