For the first time, a joyful bundle of at least 15 critically endangered Burmese peacock softshell turtles hatchlings has officially been recorded in the wild.
The news comes from conservation charity Fauna & Flora which has been working alongside local communities living by Myanmar’s Indawgyi Lake, one of the largest inland lakes in Southeast Asia, to protect some of the world’s last remaining Burmese peacock softshell turtles.
They had identified five Burmese peacock softshell turtle nesting sites, which were fenced off and protected by regular patrols. During a recent patrol, the team discovered 15 turtle hatchlings at one of the nest sites. It’s suspected that a few more had hatched earlier and already made their way to the nearby waters.
Researchers from Fauna & Flora collected the remaining hatchlings to gather data on their size and health before releasing them into the wild at Indawgyi.
The Burmese peacock softshell turtle (Nilssonia formosa) is a species of softshell native to the wetlands of Myanmar in southeast Asia.
The IUCN Red List defines these turtles as “critically endangered”. Once abundant, the turtle has been pushed to the brink of extinction due to demand from East Asian food markets. Problems like habitat destruction and getting caught in fishing nets are also significant threats.
The populations that are left are dwindling and remain highly fragmented, meaning the outlook for this species is often not promising.
However, as these recent births highlight, not all hope is lost.
“Working with local communities will be key to our success in addressing the threats to the critically endangered Burmese peacock softshell turtle," Zau Lunn, Programme Manager of the Freshwater and Marine program at Fauna & Flora, said in a statement sent to IFLScience.
"We are already seeing the results of collaborating with communities to manage and protect key nesting sites and habitats. Our work to save this species, which is unique to Myanmar, has only just begun, but the discovery and release of these hatchlings is a great start and a wonderful example of how we can work together to save nature."