Conservationists Help ‘Smiling’ Turtles Once Thought To Be Extinct Make A Comeback

It doesn’t matter how much we study nature, it has a way of surprising us on occasion. It happened recently when the Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata) did something totally unexpected. These turtles are one of the world’s most endangered and at one time, they were thought to be extinct. Eventually, they were rediscovered in the early 2000’s, and now they are making a comeback, thanks to a breeding program.

Burmese roofed turtles were once plentiful in the rivers of Miramar but the exploitation of their eggs and entrapment in fishing equipment led to the reduction in their population. The species is interesting because the females are larger than the males, and during the breeding season, the males change color. Most of this year they are muted but they turn chartreuse with black markings when they are mating. They are also known for having a big smile on their face!

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) got busy shortly after the turtles were rediscovered. They monitor the females and the areas used for nesting, and when eggs are laid, they collect them. They keep the eggs safe at a facility in Miramar to be incubated. As a result, the population of captive turtles is upward of 1000. In other words, they no longer are going extinct.

Although the turtles are making a comeback, they aren’t entirely out of danger. They are still on the list as critically endangered, and there are only about 6 adult females and about 2 adult males left in the wild. They are now working on moving some of the turtles in captivity back to the wild.

All in all, the Burmese roofed turtle program is considered a success. When you think about the fact that they have one of the highest extinction rates on the planet, it’s a positive piece of news that we could all use these days.

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