Burmese Star Tortoise
The Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) is endemic to the central valley of Myanmar (formerly Burma), and is in dire threat of extinction. This species of tortoise is sexually dimorphic, with females being larger of the two sexes. Females reach approximately 30 centimeters in length (football size) and weigh around 3.3 kilograms (about 7 pounds). Males are usually only 1/3 the size of females averaging only 700 grams, but older males can ocassionally reach weights of nearly 1700 grams.
The grassland ecosystem of central Myanmar where the tortoises live has two clearly defined seasons. The rainy season is generally very warm, with temperatures well over 100 degrees during the day with rain falling almost daily as well. The dry season is considerably cooler with night time temperatures falling close to freezing over most of the range of the tortoise.
The main threats to the tortoise are over collection for the food trade in Myanmar and China, and the black market pet trade with most of the animals ending up in the United States and Japan. Because of these threats, this tortoise is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, and current studies show that only small heavily fragmented populations remain.
Currently breeding programs exist in Myanmar to possibly reestablish this species in the wild. Educational programs are also ongoing in an effort to teach people of all ages the uniqueness of this tortoise and that it is only found in their country. Zoos across the United States are working to introduce the animals that are already here into monitored breeding programs in an effort to have another viable breeding population outside of Myanmar.
Knoxville Zoo currently houses 7.3 in our reptile collection where they can be found on display in Tortoise Territory as weather permits. They have begun laying eggs for us sporadically and our fingers are crossed that they will really take off in the years to come. Much like the Pyxis tortoises, their eggs require a diapause in order to develop properly.