Species Spotlight Vol. 8

by Jordan Gray 

IMG 2733

Arakan Forest Turtle (Heosemys depressa)

Countries of Origin:   Bangladesh and Myanmar

IUCN Status:   Critically Endangered

Estimated surviving population:   Unknown

Habitat:   Moist, tropical and subtropical broadleaf and bamboo evergreen forests of the Rakhine and Chin Hills of the Rakhine State of Myanmar, and the Chittagong Hills Tract of the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh.

Habits:   A terrestrial species, very little information has been documented about this rare species in the wild. They are found to be primarily active during the monsoon season (May-October) and estivate or make small movements during the dry season (October-May). During the dry season, this species may spend a considerable amount of time buried amidst leaf litter and other ground debris. This is an omnivorous species feeding on a wide-variety of fruits and animal matter.

Size: ‚⧠29 cm (11.5 in)

Factoid:  Arakan Forest Turtles were considered lost to science for 86 years, having last been seen in 1908, until their rediscovery in 1994 in an Asian food market. It would not be for another 15 years until this species would be found living in the wild in the Arakan Mountains of Myanmar in 2009. Two years ago, in 2015, a new population of this species was found in the Chittagong Hills Tract of Bangladesh.

Greatest Threats:  Deforestation and collection for the black-market food, traditional medicine, and pet trades.

How you can help:  TSA-Myanmar, TSA-Bangladesh, and our conservation partners in the region, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Turtle Island, Vienna Zoo, and the Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA), work to protect the native chelonian species including the Arakan Forest Turtle, and their habitats, in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Additionally, groups of this little-understood and rare species are maintained at the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina (See them on the TSC tour August 6th!), Bhawal National Park in Bangladesh, and the Rahkine Yoma Elephant Sanctuary in Gwa, Myanmar. You can best assist us in our efforts to gain valuable insight into the natural biology, habitat protection, captive-breeding, and preservation of this enigmatic species by DONATING TODAY!