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Population status and conservation of the Critically Endangered Burmese Star Tortoise Geochelone platynota in central Myanmar


Steven G. Platt a1, Win Ko Ko a2, Lay Lay Khaing a3, Khin Myo Myo a4, Thanda Swe a5, Tint Lwin a6 and Thomas R. Rainwater c1
a1 Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, New York, 10460-1099, USA
a2 Wildlife Conservation Society, Bldg C-1, Aye Yeik Mon 1st Street, Yadanamon Housing Ave., Hlaing Township, Yangon, Myanmar
a3 Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division, Forest Department, Yangon, Myanmar
a4 Thaketa Crocodile Farm, Department of Fisheries, Yangon, Myanmar
a5 Department of Zoology, Mandalay University, Mandalay, Myanmar
a6 Yadanabon Zoological Gardens, Mandalay, Myanmar

Abstract

The Critically Endangered Burmese star tortoise Geochelone platynota is endemic to the dry zone of central Myanmar. Although quantitative assessments are lacking, populations are believed to be in decline throughout its limited range due to over-collecting for international markets. We conducted star tortoise surveys during 2000–2001 at two sites in central Myanmar: Minzontaung Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected area established in 1998–1999, and Myaleik Taung, an area recently proposed for protected status. G. platynota populations of global conservation significance were found at both sites. Because tortoises are protected by local religious beliefs and commercial collecting is so far non-existent, the Sanctuary and Myaleik Taung offer excellent prospects for star tortoise conservation. The Sanctuary is well patrolled, protected from wildfires, and access is rigorously controlled. Recommended conservation actions at Myaleik Taung include management of livestock grazing, prescribed burning, and elimination of fuelwood cutting.

(Received July 12 2002)
(Revised January 14 2003)
(Accepted June 16 2003)


Key Words: Burmese star tortoise; dry zone; Geochelone platynota; Myanmar; nat worship; tortoise conservation.

Correspondence:
c1 The Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Department of Environmental Toxicology, Texas Tech University, Box 41163, Lubbock, TX 79409-1163, USA. E-mail: thomas.rainwater@tiehh.ttu.edu


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