Abstract.

The once abundant Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota) was functionally extirpated from Myanmar largely due to exploitation for wildlife trade markets. Geochelone platynota is endemic to the dry zone of central Myanmar, a desert-like region formed by the rain shadow of the western mountains. To prevent biological extinction, ex situ captive assurance colonies were established and a captive breeding program was initiated. Three major assurance colonies of Burmese star tortoises in Myanmar produced approximately > 14,000 individuals between 2004 and 2018. In 2013 and 2014, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Turtle Survival Alliance, and Myanmar Forestry Department performed health assessments on 539 tortoises prior to reintroduction. Tortoises were negative by polymerase chain reaction for the presence of Mycoplasma spp., ranavirus, herpesvirus, and the intranuclear coccidian parasite of Testudines. Results from hematologic assessment of all study tortoises were consistent with published data on other species of healthy tortoises. Such health assessments, including physical examination, hematologic analysis and molecular pathogen screening, are important to generate baseline information about potential circulating organisms or pathogens. Additionally, health assessments ensure the success of repatriation projects by both assuring that potential pathogens associated with disease are not inadvertently introduced into the wild, and that individuals slated for release are healthy enough to weather the rigors of reintroduction.

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