A Small Victory on Myanmar's Chindwin River

Kalyar Platt

This morning Myo Min Win and Steve Platt visited a sandbank near basecamp along the Upper Chindwin River where two clutches of Burmese Roofed Turtle (Batagur trivittata) eggs are being incubated. Their plan was to unearth both clutches, determine if the eggs were fertile, and rebury them along with a device that automatically records nest temperatures.

Kalyar Platt examines a female Burmese Roofed Turtle at the assurance colony for the species at Lawkanandar Wildlife Sanctuary.

They were especially anxious to examine five eggs collected from a certain area of the Chindwin in early January. We have collected eggs from this location every year since 2006, but the eggs invariably turn out to be infertile, most likely because no males survive in this section of the Chindwin River. Hoping to remedy the situation, in late 2018 we released 20 young males (sourced from our assurance colonies) into this area of the river. But alas, disappointment followed when not a single fertile egg was found among the 47 laid at the location in March 2019.

The WCS/TSA field team records Burmese Roofed Turtle egg measurements at the base camp along the Upper Chindwin River.

We expected this year would be no different when they pulled the first egg from the hole this morning and found no sign of a developing embryo. Crestfallen, they removed a second egg from the hole and could hardly believe their eyes – a large white spot could be seen on the shell, a sure sign the egg contained a young turtle! With bated breath, they then carefully removed the remaining three eggs of the clutch, all of which displayed the same tell-tale white patch typical of fertile eggs. They quickly photographed the eggs, and reburied the clutch together with a thermal recording device.

These are the first four eggs to show viability from an undisclosed section of the Upper Chindwin River since the WCS/TSA/FD team began monitoring the site in 2006.

We will continue to monitor the eggs through the long incubation period. A small victory in our long struggle to secure the future of the Burmese Roofed Turtle, but a victory nonetheless!