Turtles Once Thought to Be Extinct Are Making a Comeback Thanks to Conservationists

Baby Burmese roofed turtle

One of the world's most endangered turtles is making a comeback. The Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata) is known for its big eyes and goofy grin, and now these turtles certainly have something to smile about. Endemic to Myanmar, they were once thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in the early 2000s. Now, thanks to a breeding program, their numbers are increasing.

The rivers of Myanmar once overflowed with Burmese roofed turtles until entrapment in fishing equipment and the exploitation of their eggs left the population decimated. The species itself is quite interesting, with the females growing significantly larger than the males and the males changing color during breeding season. During that time, the males shift their muted colors into chartreuse with black markings. They're also beloved for the big smile that's always on their faces.

Once the turtles were rediscovered, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) sprang into action. They monitor sandbanks that the females use for nesting and then collect the eggs. The eggs are incubated and kept safe at a facility in Myanmar's Limpha Village. This has resulted in a captive population of 1,000 turtles, which means that the Burmese roofed turtle is no longer in danger of becoming biologically extinct.

Burmese Roofed Turtle Hatching

However, these turtles aren't out of the woods just yet. Still listed as Critically Engandered, there are only five to six adult females and as few as two adult males left in the wild. Conservation focus is now shifting toward the wild population and helping transition captive hatchlings back into the wild.

Still, researchers consider the Burmese roofed turtle a conservation success. And when one considers that turtles and tortoises have one of the highest extinction rates in the world—over half of the 360 species are endangered—this is a big step in the right direction.

Thanks to breeding programs, the Burmese roofed turtle—known for its silly grin—is no longer in danger of going extinct.

Burmese roofed turtle

h/t: [IFLScience!, NYTimes]

All images via Myo Min Win – WCS Myanmar Program.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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