Exciting Nesting News for Two Rare Turtle Species

by Heather Lowe 

The nesting season for wild Asian river terrapins (Batagur) is winding down, just on the heels of the recently completed Batagur workshop in Singapore and Malaysia in February, and we hope that the training will have an impact on hatching success.


In Myanmar, Kalyar Platt (TSA Turtle Conservation Coordinator) just returned from the upper Chindwin River where she worked with field coordinator Kyaw Moe on the nest protection and egg recovery effort for the critically endangered Burmese roof turtle (Batagur trivittata). They report that in this 2010-2011 nesting season, nesting occurred as early as 9 December 2010 and continued through 26 March 2011. During this period, a total of 179 eggs were recovered for incubation. Approximately six to nine females were thought to have nested along a 48-mile stretch of the river.


Eggs were collected and then reburied in different artificial nests at the same depth as the natural nests. Each nest was enclosed with a fence to contain the emerging hatchlings. To determine nest temperatures I-button temperature loggers were placed in five nests (thank you Gerald Kuchling). The new incubation area on Linpha Beach is constructed on an open, unshaded area in fine and dry sands. Those translocated nests are being monitored daily for emerging hatchlings by noting depressions in the sand over the egg chamber. In previous years, incubation periods ranged from 70 to 170 days, and eggs deposited in December and March hatched about the same time in May when the rainy season begins.


We also have incredible news in Bangladesh, where we have been working hard to secure a breeding group of Sundarbans river terrapins (Batagur baska) - one of Asia's most threatened large river turtles. Rashid, our colleague with CARINAM, reports that on the night of April 1, under a new moon, the female Batagur nested! Details are a bit sketchy, but this is what we know: in the newly excavated pond, the female laid 28 eggs (6 were broken, and 22 were intact), 15 of which have banded. Unfortunately, she did not use the available sand bank but laid them in hard soil and some were exposed and broken. In the second pond, the other two females had been visiting the sand banks, and are believed to have laid but the clutches have not yet been found.

Additionally, Rupali Ghosh reports that our fourth female – still in private hands – laid seven eggs on April 3, then came up and laid another six eggs that she ended up smashing. The good eggs were recovered for incubation elsewhere. Obviously, we have some modifications that must be made to the nesting banks and we are still scratching our heads as to why the females are not using the sand. Regardless, this is a pretty quick start for this emergency rescue program and we aim to be much better prepared next year. Congratulations to Rashid and his team for this tremendous success, and we hope to have even better news in a few months.