Success! Nearly-Extinct Turtle Is Coming Back With Help From Zoo

The Burmese roofed turtle was thought to be extinct in 2001. (Photo: Turtle Survival Alliance)

By Sarah V Schweig

Once almost extinct, Burmese roofed turtles are finally returning to the wild.

“Conservation success stories in the turtle world are few and far between these days and this one is particularly rewarding to me,” Turtle Survival Alliance president Rick Hudson told The Dodo. “When you consider the time frame — from rediscovery to reintroduction in just 14 years — it’s a remarkable achievement.”

Thought to be extinct as recently as 2001, researchers seeking a different species of turtle happened upon the shell of a Burmese roofed turtle, which gave them hope. Only recently were they lucky enough to discover 10 females laying eggs in the wild. And now, thanks to a breeding colony at the Mandalay Zoo, as well as two nesting sites along the Chindwin River, there are about 600 Burmese roofed turtles across the country, CBS reports.

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The turtles are being released with ceremonies and Buddhist blessings. (Photo: Turtle Survival Alliance)

Sixty of these rare turtles have been released into rivers in Myanmar this year, complete with celebratory ceremonies and Buddhist blessings to help them thrive, thanks to dedicated experts at the Turtle Survival Alliance and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Rather than simply stockpile these incredibly endangered turtles in captivity, our objective has always been to restore the Burmese roofed turtle as a functional member of riverine communities in Myanmar,” Steve Platt, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, who helped release the turtles into the wild, said in a Turtle Survival Alliance post.

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(Photo: Turtle Survival Alliance)

Platt said that the turtle population had been on the decline since World War II, and was due primarily to over-harvesting of eggs for use in local cuisine by villagers along the rivers.

“I think if we had gotten there a few years later, this species would have already been gone,” Hudson said.

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