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Scientists Discover Eggs of One of World's Most Endangered Turtles

An extraordinary egg hunt

by Wildlife Conservation Society
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Male Burmese roofed turtleMale Burmese roofed turtle in breeding colors.Photo credit: Kalyar Platt/WCSA team of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Turtle Survival Alliance scientists in Myanmar have successfully recovered 44 fertile eggs of the critically endangered Burmese roofed turtle. Fewer than five females of this species remain in the wild.

A combination of over-harvesting of eggs, incidental loss in fishing gear, and habitat loss due to gold mining had pushed the Burmese roofed turtle to the brink of extinction. But ongoing conservation work offers a glimmer of hope.

For the past 11 years, WCS scientists have monitored nesting sites, waiting for females to emerge from the Chindwin River to dig nests on sand bars. The scientists then collect the viable eggs to ensure the young turtles survive.

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turtle eggsWCS/TSA scientists have uncovered 44 viable eggs of the critically endangered Burmese roofed turtle.Photo credit: Steven Platt/WCSThis year's eggs will be incubated in a protected sandbank on the river until they hatch in early June. The hatchlings will be maintained in large pools for the next four or five years. Once the turtles have grown large enough to be safe from predators, they will be released back into the river.

Young male turtles released into the wild in 2015 are believed to be responsible for inseminating the wild females. Scientists will conduct DNA tests on the hatchlings; if paternity can be traced to the released males, it would mark a major milestone in the conservation of the species, and Asian river turtles in general.

The captive population has grown to over 600 juveniles of all sizes, and conservationists plan to continue to release animals back into the wild.