Nature and the Environment
in the News

Source: Focus Taiwan
Date: February 28, 2011

Taiwan to help build transitional refuge for turtles in Myanmar

Taipei, Feb. 28 (CNA) Taiwan has donated US$10,000 to help set up a halfway house for Burmese star tortoises in Myanmar that will promote the conservation of the endangered species, the Taipei Zoo said Monday.

The halfway house, which is scheduled to be built in Bagan in western Myanmar, will be used to help Burmese star tortoises smuggled into or bred in Taiwan make the transition back to their home country, according to the zoo.

The Taipei Zoo and the Council of Agriculture's Forestry Bureau presented the money to the Turtle Survival Alliance, a global organization dedicated to turtle protection and conservation, at a donation ceremony organized by the zoo Monday.

According to the zoo, the habitats of the tortoises in the wild in Myanmar have been destroyed due to agricultural development.

Because of their star pattern shells, the tortoises have also become popular pets and victims of rampant poaching in the Southeast Asian country, it said.

Zoo officials said they are currently raising 14 healthy adult Burmese star tortoises, some of which were smuggled into the country, found and sent to the zoo to be cared for seven years ago.

The zoo also became the first in the world in 2003 to artificially breed a Burmese star tortoise.

Officials said they plan to select suitable tortoises and send them back to Myanmar in the future.

The Burmese star tortoise was listed as one of the five most endangered freshwater and land turtles and the second most endangered land turtle in the world in 2007, the zoo said.

Taipei Zoo Director Jason Yeh said the zoo took a close look at the conservation work being done in the area last year and decided to build the halfway house in the Lawkananda Wildlife Sanctuary in Bagan.

The tortoises, mostly herbivorous, enjoy living in warm and dry areas