Knoxville Zoo Hatches Critically Endangered Tortoises
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— Knoxville Zoo has become one of four Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited organizations to hatch the critically endangered Burmese star tortoise. In late 2008, the zoo’s herpetology department hatched five Burmese star tortoises with one more egg currently in incubation.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) listed the Burmese star tortoise as critically endangered in 1996 and since then, its numbers have continued to decline throughout its native range. Some experts feel that this species is close to extinction in the wild. The breeding of this tortoise in captive situations is thought to be imperative for survival.
AZA accredited zoos and aquariums, in conjunction with the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), have worked together to determine the optimum temperature levels and overall care of these eggs during the incubation period. Due to the successful hatching of these five tortoises, Knoxville Zoo will now be able to share the knowledge learned about breeding this species with other AZA accredited institutions.
“We have learned a tremendous amount from our colleagues, from both public as well as private facilities throughout the herpetological community that are active in similar turtle and tortoise conservation efforts,” said Bern Tryon, director of herpetology at Knoxville Zoo. “We are proud to be part of the collective breeding program for Burmese star tortoises as well as for many other turtle and tortoise species in our collection. We will continue our research and conservation efforts for the ultimate benefit of this and other threatened and endangered species of reptiles, hopeful to slow the inevitable extinction process for some of them.”
The Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota) is a native species of Myanmar (Burma). The number of tortoises in the wild is declining as a result of deforestation and poaching.