Nature and the Environment
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Source: Taipei Times
Date: September 16, 2009

Published on Taipei Times

Taipei Zoo to ink pact on rare tortoises

Wednesday, Sep 16, 2009, Page 2

The Taipei Zoo said it would sign an agreement with the US-based turtle conservancy Behler Chelonian Center today to cooperate in the conservation of endangered turtle and tortoise species, especially Burmese star tortoises.

The two organizations began exchanging Burmese star tortoise breeding and hatching techniques last year.

Under today?s agreement, they will send Burmese star tortoises bred in the zoo to Myanmar, zoo officials said.

Several baby Burmese star tortoises were hatched in the zoo in June 2003, the first time any zoo had succeeded in hatching Burmese star tortoise eggs.

The Burmese star tortoise is one of the rarest tortoise species in the world.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the tortoise as ?critically endangered? since 2003.

The tortoise is becoming extinct in its native Myanmar, where it lives in the dry, deciduous forest. It is eaten both by Burmese and Chinese and it sometimes found in food markets in China.

The California-based Behler Chelonian Center provided the zoo with advanced hatching techniques and procedures that helped its staff increase the zoo?s population of new Burmese star tortoises from one baby in 2003 to 26 as of this year.

The zoo has also developed a gene pool of rare turtles and tortoises under the assistance of Lee Shou-hsien (???), a professor at National Taiwan Normal University. The center has also provided the zoo with gene samples.

Of all the tortoises characterized by the highly distinctive ?star? or ?radiating? patterns on their upper shell, the Burmese star tortoise is perhaps the rarest and most beautiful. Its dark brown to black, domed carapace is marked with up to six radiating yellow stripes emerging from small, yellow, central areas, creating the star pattern that gives the tortoise its unique appearance.

The Behler Chelonian Center has achieved great success with its captive breeding program since its inception in 2005, hatching 13 rare turtle and tortoise species.