The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) is an action-oriented global partnership committed in achieving zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century. It supports the conservation of the Burmese Roofed Turtle and the Burmese Star Tortoise through captive breeding and research.
The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) is committed in achieving zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century.
In Myanmar, the TSA works together with a team from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to implement recovery programs for highly endangered endemic tortoise species such as the Burmese Roofed Turtle (Batagur trivittata) and the Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota).
Both of these species are critically endangered, with the Burmese Roofed Turtle being the second-most endangered turtle in the world: It is estimated that less than 10 adult females remain in the wild and it is uncertain if any males are present in wild populations.
TSA/WCS also coordinates a response against illegal wildlife trafficking of such endangered turtles.
ASAP Species That We Work On
What We Do
Captive breeding and reintroduction programs
TSA breeds Burmese Star Tortoises in captivity and assurance colonies with the eventual goal of re-establishing viable wild populations of the species. Initially just a handful of individuals, these colonies now produce thousands of offspring annually. TSA’s captive breeding program is seeing great success, especially with captive Burmese Star Tortoises whose captive populations continue to expand significantly.
In order to ensure the safe reintroduction of these captive bred tortoises, TSA conducts public awareness and environmental education campaigns to help locals understand and support such conservation initiatives. This is an important step toward creating a safer environment for these animals since their decline can be primarily attributed to over-harvesting.
In May 2014, the TSA/WCS team achieved the first ever return to the wild of captive-bred Burmese Star Tortoises in Myanmar, the result of years of conservation efforts in the region. Prior to the reintroduction plan, the team ran a yearlong public awareness and educational campaign with neighbouring rural communities. The first phase of reintroduction then began in September 2013 with the construction of pre-release holding pens to hold 150 sub-adult star tortoises. These tortoises were examined to ensure they were free from disease and infections before being placed together in the pens. After six months in the pens, the bamboo perimeter fence panels were removed to “self-release” the first group of tortoises – a conservation landmark for the TSA/WCS team.
The TSA/WCS team continues to carry out reintroductions through its captive breeding programmes. 150 captive-bred tortoises have just been released at Minzontaung WS with 300 more awaiting release. Another reintroduction will also soon be underway at another wildlife sanctuary.
In and ex situ conservation programs
An integrated in and ex situ conservation program was initiated in 2006 to protect the Burmese Roofed Turtle. This included setting up an assurance colony at Mandalay Zoo with confiscated and recovered adult turtles.
TSA also extends its efforts to the upper Chindwin River where the remaining wild Burmese Roofed Turtles are now confined. TSA/WCS hires local “beach wardens” to monitor nesting
sites annually and notify the TSA/WCS team when the females lay eggs. These eggs are then relocated and reburied at a secure area. The hatchlings are then reared at the Limpha village head-starting facility to a size at which they are no longer vulnerable to predators. It is hoped that in doing so, the turtles would have a better chance at survival in the wild. These turtles are then released back into the river or remain in an assurance colony.
In order to ensure that these captive reared turtles are reintroduced safely back into the river, TSA conducts public awareness and environmental education campaigns to help locals understand and support such conservation initiatives.
So far, 60 head-started Burmese Roofed Turtles have been successful reintroduced into two rivers in Western Myanmar.
TSA/WCS is looking to increase its capacity by expanding the existing Roofed Turtle head-starting facility in Limpha Village and establishing another assurance colony in Htamanthi, a town on the Chindwin River.
Research and surveys
The TSA/WCS team carries out research projects to discover the best conservation actions to take in conserving these endangered animals. Ongoing field surveys are being conducted on turtles and tortoises in protected areas in order to determine the range of the animals and any potential release sites in the region.
Featured image: Roland Wirth