Thanya Netithammakun, the acting director general of DNP (Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation), Pol.Lt.Gen. Piya Sorntrakul the assistant commissioner general of Royal Thai Police, and Steven G. Platt from WCS Myanmar have made a press conference on December 25, 2015 to announce a successful case of Burmese star tortoises.
After receiving words from the Burmese government about 188 Burmese star tortoises which had gone missing from a wildlife sanctuary during the past September-October 2015 and were found on sale on Facebook by a user named Thanawat Khongchomchaiwat, the DNP in cooperation with Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division has conducted an investigation which led to searching Thanawat’s house in Phra Yuen district of Khon Kaen province on December 22, 2015. Among 16 species found in his house, 7 Burmese star tortoises were confiscated. The origin of 4 tortoises was unknown but the other 3 were proved to be the missing ones from Myanmar. Using a microchip reader, 2 tortoises were found to have microchips embedded in them which held information that matched the ones stolen from Myanmar. Although 1 tortoise had no microchip, it was identified by religious markings and number on its shell like the other two. The three tortoises would be moved to a wildlife rescue center in Thailand and ultimately returned to their home in Myanmar.
For further investigation, the suspect claimed to buy tortoises from Yongyuth Thammasanchon in Chatuchak market. Instead of finding more tortoises, an orangutan was found in Yongyuth’s possession without legal permission. He was charged and the orangutan was confiscated for the case. The officers from the DNP will continue to search for the rest of stolen tortoises.
Did you know?
Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota) is listed among other critically endangered species in CITES Appendix I. They are endemic to central Myanmar and are believed to have gone extinct in the last 10 years. Because of their unique appearance from the star pattern on the shell, the Burmese star tortoises are hunted extensively to feed the demand mostly from the international pet markets.
The staff of WCS Myanmar in Burmese Star Tortoise Reintroduction Project in collaboration with Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), and the Forestry Department of Myanmar have together put great efforts in bringing Burmese star tortoises back into the wild and currently have a growing number of captive-bred Burmese star tortoises at over 7,000. Reintroducing 450 tortoises into the wild, each tortoise was given an identification number, religious markings on the shell and a microchip. Moreover, the survival rate is above 95%. This is a huge success of conservation efforts in returning the once extinct species into the nature once again.