Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Turtle Survival Alliance has stumbled upon the Easter eggs of a lifetime. They have discovered 44 eggs of the Burmese Roofed Turtle, one of the rarest reptiles in the world.
According to a report from Seeker, the Burmese Roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata) is so rare that in 2014, only one egg from the critically endangered species was found. It’s estimated that there are only five remaining Burmese roofed turtles in the wild.
Steven Platt, a regional herpetologist at WCS Myanmar, said the major breakthrough doesn’t end with the discovery of the rare eggs, they still have to determine if they are fertile or not by observing signs of banding — a chalky white stripe that appears on eggs, indicating that the turtle embryo has attached to the egg wall.
“It’s a real nail biter, not knowing if the eggs will prove fertile or not. When we see the first sign of banding, it’s an overwhelming relief. Everything depends on finding that handful of fertile eggs,” Platt said.
The Turtle Survival Alliance explained that the slow extinction of the Burmese roofed turtle went unnoticed because of Myanmar’s isolation to the world due to its oppresive military junta. Scientists thought that the Burmese roofed turtle has gone extinct. But in 2001, Platt and his team found a shell from a freshly killed female roofed turtle along the Dokhtawady River near Mandalay, proving that the species still exists.
Scientists hope that the 44 recently discovered eggs will revamp the population of the Burmese roofed turtles. Villagers are monitoring the rare turtle eggs, which are currently in incubation in sand bars along the Chindwin River. The scientists believe that further educating the locals about the importance of Burmese roofed turtles will help boost their population.
“The villagers always left a few eggs to insure the next generation of turtles. Unfortunately they didn’t leave enough and the population has long been in a downward spiral for probably well over 100 years,” Platt said.
Newly hatched Burmese roofed turtles will be moved to large outdoor pools located in Camp Batagur in Limpha Village. They will then be released to the wild after four to five years, when they are fully grown.
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