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A Hopeful Hatching

June 15, 2017

Thirty-nine Burmese roofed turtles have hatched in Limpha Village, Myanmar, creating hope for the survival of a Critically Endangered species.

This latest success is part of an ambitious “headstart” program initiated by WCS and the Turtle Survival Alliance in 2007, in which the eggs of the Burmese-roofed turtle are collected from the wild to hatch and raise. The new hatchlings will be allowed to grow to a size where they can defend themselves from predators and then, in approximately five years, they will be released into the wild.

“Every year, there is a collective exhale among us when the females emerge and lay their eggs," said Steven Platt, WCS Conservation Herpetologist for Southeast Asia.

Fewer than five female Burmese roofed turtles currently remain in the wild. A combination of long-term collection of eggs dating back almost one hundred years, electro-fishing, incidental loss in fishing gear, and habitat loss due to gold mining has pushed the species to the brink of extinction.

Young male turtles released into the wild as part of a trial reintroduction in 2015 are believed to be responsible for inseminating the wild females. Scientists will conduct DNA tests on the hatchlings, hoping to trace paternity to previously released headstarted males—which would mark a major conservation milestone.

”Seeing the hatchlings is an awe-inspiring sight, particularly when you consider the species was thought extinct as recently as 2001,” said Platt. ”While there are now 600 turtles of all sizes in the captive population, there is still much work to do to safeguard the future for this species.”

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