Number of rare star tortoises dwindles by 357 at Shwesettaw Sanctuary

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Remnants and shells of star tortoises, . Photo: Zayyathu (Magway)

A total of 357 star tortoises out of 650 have been found dead or lost in the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary, where Ethey were kept in fenced enclosures on three farms measuring 2.5 acres, said U Thein Lwin, the administrator of the sanctuary.
The farms are located about 20 miles from the sanctuary, located on the Pathein-Monywa road.
“The number of star tortoises has dwindled as they are at risk of being eaten by wild boars and wild dogs who enter the farms through broken fencing. Besides, some of the tortoises venture into the forest or get killed by poachers,” he added.
“On July 15, staff found farm No.1 and No.2 opened. Upon inspection, the staff saw footprints of wild boars, and remnants and shells of star tortoises, along with 28 star tortoises that were still alive. There were a total of 400 star tortoises on the farms,” U Thein Lwin added.
“When the staff inspected farm No.3, they could not locate about 110 star tortoises. That’s why they installed cameras and carried out surveillance. After the cameras recorded two suspects carrying knapsacks, bags, and knives, a case was registered against them at the police station,” he added.
U Thein Lwin said that the captive-bred star tortoises are being reared and fed till they reach four or five years of age, and then they are set free in fenced areas in the farms, measuring 2.5 acres, so they can learn to survive on their own.
“In the enclosures, they cannot obtain food from people. Officials have built some ponds and observe star tortoises for one year. Next, the staff set them free in the forest once they are able to manage and survive on their own,” he said.
There are eight local staff appointed by the Turtle Survival Alliance-TSA, and they seemed unaware of the broken fencing. Moreover, they said they haven’t experienced such incidents in the last three years.
Around 60 star tortoises died due to extreme heat in March and April, said the administrator with the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary.—Zayyathu (Magway) (Translated by Win Ko Ko Aung)

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