Burmese Star Tortoises

The Burmese star tortoise is a medium-sized tortoise found only in central Myanmar. Burgeoning demand from wildlife markets in southern China beginning in the mid-1990s virtually wiped out the tortoise in a matter of years, dropping the population to just a few hundred animals in the early 2000s, and the species was considered ecologically extinct. 

However, thanks to an aggressive captive-breeding effort, the Burmese star tortoise has been brought back from the brink of extinction. Three captive breeding colonies began with an estimated 175 individuals, mostly confiscated from illegal wildlife traffickers. WCS herpetologists helped design the breeding centers as well as provide husbandry expertise, while WCS veterinarians and molecular scientists conducted health screenings of the captive population, confirming diagnoses and recommending treatment options.

The initiative has been a resounding success. The tortoises now number over 14,000 individuals. Approximately 750 animals have been released into sanctuaries, and the long-term objective of restoring viable populations in every protected area in the central dry zone is now biologically attainable.

Burmese star tortoise credit: WCS Thailand


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