WCS congratulates Kalyar Platt of The Turtle Survival Alliance for winning the 10th Annual John L. Behler Turtle Conservation Award. Read about Kalyar’s story below in a press release from TSA.

Fort Worth, TX (August 17, 2015) – The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) is pleased to announce that the 10th Annual John L. Behler Turtle Conservation Award has been presented to Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) Turtle Conservation Coordinator in Myanmar, Kalyar Platt The award was presented at the 13th Annual Symposium on the Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles in Tucson, Arizona on August 9. Kalyar is the first female recipient of this prestigious honor, as well as the youngest honoree in the award’s history.

The Behler Turtle Conservation Award was established in 2006 to honor leadership and excellence in the field of tortoise and freshwater turtle conservation. The award honors the memory of John L. Behler, previous Chair of the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group and Curator of Herpetology at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo. 

Kalyar was born in 1972 and grew up in Yangon, Burma (present-day Myanmar). She attended Yangon University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors in 1995 and her Master of Science degree in 2000. Hoping to pursue intellectual opportunities abroad, Kalyar moved to Bangkok in 2001 and began working for WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) in Thailand. She was admitted into the graduate program at Chulalongkorn University where in 2007, she earned her Doctorate.

Soon after, she moved to the United States to be with her husband, Steven Platt,  also a conservationist, who had taken a teaching position at Sul Ross University in Texas. Together they dreamed of one day returning to Myanmar and devoting their energies to turtle conservation. In 2010, that dream became a reality when Kalyar was hired to spearhead the TSA’s Myanmar Program while Steven  took a position working as a herpetologist for WCS in Southeast Asia.

Kalyar's accomplishments bespeak of her abilities. To reenergize the nearly defunct Burmese Star Tortoise conservation program, Kalyar organized a national conservation workshop, and together with the participants developed an action plan outlining how and where to restore this iconic species. The result? Nearly 250 Star Tortoises,  almost extinct in the wild before Kalyar’s efforts, have since been reintroduced to the wild, and more than 6,000 now exist in captive colonies in Myanmar.

In addition to Star Tortoises, Kalyar worked tirelessly to bring the Burmese Roofed Turtle back from the edge of extinction. Her efforts included overseeing the collection of eggs from the Chindwin River, establishing three captive assurance colonies for this species, and boosting production of hatchlings at the Mandalay Zoo. The first release to the wild of headstarted Burmese Roofed Turtles was earlier this year.

 On receiving the award Kalyar said, “It is very special to me, especially knowing who has received it in the past and who elected me for the award.  It is a tremendous vote of confidence. Turtle conservation is my passion and I will continue to devote my life to saving the unique turtles in my country.”

 Kalyar's achievements have not gone unnoticed in Myanmar where turtles are now at the forefront of the budding conservation movement. Indeed, in a recent Facebook post, the Assistant Director General of the Myanmar Forest Department wrote that TSA/WCS efforts on behalf of turtles is without exception the most effective conservation program in the country, and much of this success was due to the unceasing labors of one person, the Leik Saya Magyi (Indomitable Turtle Lady) of Myanmar, Kalyar Platt.

 For more information on this story, please contact CHRISTINE BOWIE (1-817-759-7262 OR 917-578-8876) cbowie@turtlesurvival.org)