December 16, 2006
New Captive Facility for Burmese roofed turtle opened
The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) is pleased to announce that efforts to save one of the world?s most endangered turtles took a major step forward recently. A new captive breeding and management facility for the Burmese roofed turtle, Kachuga trivittata, was officially opened on Dec. 12, 2006 at the Yadanobon Zoo in Mandalay, Myanmar. This project is a joint endeavor of the TSA, the British Chelonia Group (BCG), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Dr. Tint Lwin (Yadanobon Zoo), Bill Holmstorm (WCS) and Rick Hudson (TSA) helped coordinate the opening ceremony that was attended by representatives from the Myanmar Forestry Department, the Yadanabon Zoo, Crystal Perception engineering firm and faculty and students from the University of Mandalay.
The opening culminated with the release of 2.3 adult K. trivittata into the breeding pond; turtles were released at the nesting beach and allowed to slowly find their way to the water in hopes that the females would orient to this area when it comes time to nest. Due to the large size of the breeding pond, four adults were fitted with radio transmitters so they could be monitored. It was especially gratifying to see one of the males up basking on the ramp to the nesting beach, and the females feeding on floating vegetation, the next day.
The new facility also features a floating basking platform, a fenced feeding area, a water hyacinth-filled biological filtration pond, security fencing and a juvenile rearing area with six grow-out ponds. Sixteen 2006-hatched trivittata hatchlings, collected from wild nests on the Upper Chindwin River, are now being raised here. Construction funds were provided by the BCG and the TSA through grants from the Batchelor Foundation and Walter Sedgwick.
The Burmese roofed turtle recovery program is proving to be a model example where field and captive efforts are strongly linked and support one another. This year the WCS turtle team located eight wild nests and collected 88 hatchling trivittata for head starting, 16 of which were brought to Yadanabon Zoo. Several subadults trapped in fishermen?s nets on the Chindwin were also turned over to the WCS team and often incorporated into the breeding program. With dam construction already begun, and the remaining known nesting habitat of this species projected to be underwater within five years, the captive management program takes on a greater sense of urgency. Within the next few years, biologists must collect critical data on natural nesting ecology, particularly incubation temperatures and TSD patterns, as well as determine how to successfully breed and raise trivittata in captivity. To address these as well as a range of other questions and concerns, plans are underway for a Species Recovery Workshop, to be held late in 2007 in Mandalay.
The TSA is also developing plans for two new breeding facilities for Burmese star tortoise, Geochelone platynota, in Myanmar. The first will be at the Minsontaung Wildlife Sanctuary, in conjunction with EAZA Shellshock, the second at the Yadanabon Zoo in collaboration with WCS and others. Both places already have successful breeding programs but the facilities are either too small or lack adequate security.
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