Don’t forget to water your tortoise if you want it to grow big and strong 🐢

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This is the Burmese Roofed Turtle. There are perhaps six of them left in the wild. There’s over a thousand in zoos. This is a very, very good thing.


There are five known females and while nobody’s seen a male in a while… well, we know there’s at least one. Habitat loss and environmental degradation have made this handsome beastie functionally extinct in the wild- but we’re not going to lose them. In fact, there’s a captive population of over 1000, including the 63 that hatched from the 110 wild eggs collected along the Upper Chindwin River in Myanmar. 

These hatchlings would not have survived in the wild. There’s too much against them.

Had they managed to hatch, they would have been at risk from predation and resource depletion. They would have been hunted- for collectors, or for food. One of the last wild adults was seen in 2007 in a Chinese market, after all. It’s not safe for this turtle anymore in the wild- but thanks to a carefully managed breeding program and six assurance colonies/reservoir populations located at Yangon Zoo, Lawkanandar Wildlife Sanctuary, Limpha Field Station, Htamanthi Wildife Sanctuary, Mandalay Zoo, and Singapore Zoo, this turtle has a future. Perhaps one day, there will be habitat for the Burmese Roofed Turtle. Perhaps one day, the water will be cleaner, the land in less demand. 

But even if it’s not, we won’t lose this species. We’ll be able to tell its story and make it clear that once these beautiful turtles swam in the wild- and they don’t anymore, but maybe one day they will again. Stuff like this is why I get so frustrated with blanket anti-zoo rhetoric. There’s literally no other way to preserve species like this in the actual world that exists today. For some species, in situ conservation is only delaying the inevitable; setting up healthy assurance colonies in zoos where the genetic diversity can be preserved and the species can be propagated is the only way forward. Without these programs, the Burmese Roofed Tortoise would go the way of the baiji or the vaquita. If you’d like to know more about the Turtle Survival Alliance and their work with the world’s critically endangered turtle species, they post a lot of cool stuff on Facebook.