First record of rare turtle hatchlings in the wild

Fauna & Flora gathered data on the turtles, before releasing them. Image: Nyein Chan & Yae Aung / Fauna & Flora

Fifteen Burmese peacock softshell turtles have hatched in Myanmar, Southeast Asia – the first recorded birth of the critically endangered species.

The announcement was made by nature conservation charity Fauna & Flora, which has been working with communities living on Indawgyi, one of the largest inland lakes in Southeast Asia, to protect the remaining Burmese peacock softshell turtles.

One of the world’s most endangered freshwater turtles, the species is only found in Myanmar. Like many turtles and tortoises in this region, it has been overharvested to the brink of extinction, due to demand from East Asian food markets, habitat degradation and accidental entanglement in fishing nets.

"The discovery and release of these hatchlings is a wonderful example of how we can work together to save nature.”

Zau Lunn, Fauna & Flora

Zau Lunn, Fauna & Flora programme manager said, “Working with local communities will be key to our success in addressing the threats to the critically endangered Burmese peacock softshell turtle.

"We are already seeing the results of collaborating with communities to manage and protect key nesting sites and habitat. Our work to save this species, which is unique to Myanmar, has only just begun, but the discovery and release of these hatchlings is a great start and a wonderful example of how we can work together to save nature.”

Image: Nyein Chan / Fauna & Flora

With the help of local people, Fauna & Flora was able to pinpoint five turtle nesting sites. The eggs were then fenced off and protected through regular patrols conducted by a team of turtle guardians drawn from the community.

During a recent patrol, the team discovered 15 hatchlings at one of the nest sites, with many other turtles believed to have hatched already and made their way to the nearby lake. Fauna & Flora collected the remaining hatchlings in order to gather vital data on the species, including weight and size, before releasing them into the wild.

Adult turtle. Image: Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

A globally important wetland wildlife haven, Indawgyi was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2017, a process that Fauna & Flora helped to set in motion. Fauna & Flora’s work is supported by US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Prince Bernhard Nature Fund.