Burmese Roof Turtle Field Report

The field research and conservation program for the endemic Burmese roofed turtle, Batagur trivittata, continues under the WCS Myanmar Program, and is based on the Upper Chindwin River.  The primary goal is to study the remnant nesting population, protect nests, and collect hatchlings for headstarting at the Yadanabon Zoo.  The eventual goal is to begin restocking young adult B. trivittata to the river in areas that are part of their former range and that convey some measure of protection from the intensive fishing practices that are so prevalent there.  The wild populations are drastically depleted, so much so that along one stretch of river female B. trivittata continue to lay infertile eggs, likely evidence that no males exist in that habitat.  Releasing headstarted adult males in this area may provide a boost to the population, and would represent a stellar example of the wild and captive populations being managed as one, to augment and support one another.  WCS and Forestry Department biologists Kyaw Moe and Win Ko Ko are in charge of this aspect of the field program and continue to survey the Chindwin for turtles.  They report that 2009 was again a fairly good year for reproduction.  However, due to gold mining activity, no nests were laid on one of the major sand banks where two females laid in 2006 ‚Äì 2008.  Despite this disturbance, 80 hatchlings were collected from protected nest sites and transported to the Yadanabon Zoo for headstarting, bringing the total to 243 over the past four years (2006 ‚Äì 2009).  Finally captive work began on another Myanmar endemic, as eight hatchling Burmese peacock softshell turtles (Nilssonia formosa) were collected and taken to the Zoo for rearing. Local education efforts continued as WCS biologist Khin Myo Myo and Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary staff presented talks to teachers from 13 villages within the B. trivittata project area. These efforts are considered crucial to cultivate a culture of awareness of the importance of protecting this unique resource.   This program will continue in July 2009.