In December, the WCS/TSA Turtle Team was occupied with two major conservation projects. The first project involved the translocation of Burmese Star Tortoise eggs from the assurance colony to natural sites in Minzontaung Wildlife Sanctuary. Although egg translocation is a technique widely used in sea turtle conservation, to our knowledge this is the first application of this strategy to tortoise conservation. Translocating eggs is relatively straightforward; freshly deposited clutches are excavated from within the assurance colony, transported to an area within the heavily-guarded Star Tortoise Conservation Zone, and reburied in an artificial nest constructed at either a shady or open site. The reason for positioning some nests in shady sites and others in open sites is to produce an approximately equal sex ratio among the hatchlings. Tortoises exhibit what is known as “Temperature-dependent sex determination” (TSD); i.e., the sex of the offspring is determined by the temperature at which the eggs are incubated. Warmer incubation temperatures tend to produce females while cooler temperatures produce males. Thus, we expect the shaded nests to produce primarily males while those placed in the open will produce mostly females. Each translocated nest is covered with a heavy wire mesh screen to protect against predators such as jackals and monitor lizards.
Our second project involved preparations for a large release of captive-reared Burmese Star Tortoises planned for early 2018. To this end, we selected 800 juvenile tortoises from the assurance colony at Lawkanandar Wildlife Sanctuary with the assistance of the Park Warden, U Shwe Htay Aung and his staff. We selected an equal number of males and females from cohorts hatched in 2012-14. Each of these tortoises was then given a cursory health examination by WCS/TSA staff veterinarian, the Sayar Dr. U Tint Lwin. Afterwards, each tortoise was permanently marked by notching a unique series of marginal scutes. Later this month and during early January Buddhist icons and an individual identification number will be tattooed on the shell of each tortoise and then group will be transported to Shwe Settaw Wildlife Sanctuary where it will await release.