Myanmar's smiling turtle

I like positive news stories about wild animals, especially ones where the animals have been saved from extinction. And this is a really uplifting news story, because not only has the species been saved, but it is a smiling turtle from Myanmar. Awesome! Smiling!

Photo by Myo Min Win/WCS Myanmar (Platt et al 2020).
A newly hatched Burmese roofed turtle. Photo by Myo Min Win/WCS Myanmar (Platt et al 2020).

Read the article about the Myanmar smiling turtle and identify the following statements as True, False or Not Given.

  1. Before 2001, it was believed that there were no living Burmese roofed turtles.

  2. In 2001, researchers found the shell of a turtle that had been killed by poachers.

  3. Researchers discovered significant turtle populations in two locations in Myanmar.

  4. The turtle population needs to be regularly checked to prevent the harvesting of eggs.

  5. The most significant threat to turtles worldwide is the devastation of their natural living environment.

  6. There are now about 1000 turtles in the wild.


The Burmese roofed turtle is the second-most critically endangered turtle in the world. Once abundant, hunting and overexploitation of eggs has driven the population to near-extinction. The species was presumed extinct until 2001, when researchers found the shell of a recently killed turtle in a village along the Dokhtawady River in Myanmar. Shortly after, a living turtle was discovered by a collector at a wildlife market in China.

Encouraged by these findings, researchers conducted field surveys to find the wild populations and found turtles in two separate rivers in Myanmar. However, the population had collapsed to a whisper, with fewer than 10 adult females surviving in the wild at that time.

“The biggest threat is that there are so few left in the wild and so if there’s an accident we’ve lost a big chunk of the population,” says Steven Platt, WCS associate conservation herpetologist for Southeast Asia. “Otherwise its mostly fishing. I worry about them getting entangled in fishing gear and drowning. And if we didn’t monitor, the eggs would be collected.”

More than half of the world’s turtle and tortoise species are now threatened with extinction. Loss of habitat is their biggest threat globally, but turtles also face dangers from the pet trade, overconsumption for food and medicine, fishing, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

In an effort to bring the Burmese roofed turtle back from the brink of extinction, a program was started in 2007 where eggs were collected from wild turtles for a captive-breeding program. Now, turtles are bred, hatched and reared in conditions safe from predation by large fish, birds, and lizards, poaching and egg collection. Complementary conservation efforts are also focused on the remaining known wild turtles: five to six adult females and as few as two males living on a remote stretch of the upper Chindwin River. Their nests are monitored and eggs are collected and incubated in a secure facility in Limpha village in the Sagaing region of Myanmar.

The captive breeding program has produced about 170 turtles a year and the captive population is now approaching 1,000 turtles, so the species appears to be in little danger of biological extinction. The goal is to eventually release them back into their wild habitat in the Chindwin River. For now, some of the turtles are kept in floating cages in the river as a “soft release” of sorts. The hope is that once the turtles become acclimated to the area they can be released and won’t stray too far.

Full article by Liz Kimbrough at

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