The Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota) is native to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. It is a beautiful medium sized tortoise. Maximum size can reach 12+ inches (30+ cm), but average size is around 10-12 inches (26-30 cm). In general, females grow up to 12 inches and males up to 9.5 inches.
The shell is fairly domed and usually quite smooth in wild animals. The carapace, aka upper shell, is creamy white or light yellow with dark brown or black patterns, but it looks like the shell is dark with radiating yellow stripes forming the star patterns. The underlying yellow shell color can be seen in older individuals in spots where the dark color has rubbed off. Marginal scutes along the perimeter of the shell have light colored v-shaped patterns. The star patterns have mostly six yellow lines, but the number varies from 5 to 8+ depending on the scute location. Plastron, the underside, is yellow with black triangular markings or blotches. Head, limb, and tail scales are whitish, yellow, tan, or even light orange.
The Burmese star tortoise inhabits the dry central zone of Myanmar. This area includes scrublands, grasslands, forests, and forest edges. Typical habitat is grassland with woody scrubs. Local temperatures range from 40-50°F in the winter to over 100°F in the summer.
Very little is known of its behavior in the wild, but this tortoise is active during the day, especially mornings and afternoons. It stays active year round, unless it's very hot or very cold. It does not brumate (hibernate) like the Mediterranean tortoises.
The Burmese star tortoise is active, smart, personable, and responsive. It’s typically less "shy" and livelier than the Indian star tortoise, but as with all tortoises, each Burmese star has its own personality. Some are more "outgoing" while others are more timid. Adults, especially males, are more fearless than youngsters.
Increasing number of keepers in the U.S. are breeding this charming tortoise. It is said to be hardier and easier to breed in captivity than the Indian star tortoise.
Burmese star tortoise eating dandelions.
Burmese star tortoises have lovely shells. Two young ones of different ages.
Burmese star is critically endangered and one of the rarest tortoises in the world. Natural populations are declining severely due to habitat loss and illegal collecting for pet trade, Asian medicine, and food markets. According to the Turtle Survival Alliance, the Burmese star tortoise was already functionally extinct in nature by mid-2000's. For example, at the Minzontaung Wildlife Sanctuary, only one Burmese star tortoise was found in a 2008 survey.
But there is hope. Wildlife sanctuaries in Myanmar are now breeding Burmese star tortoises in large numbers in their assurance colonies and reintroducing head started tortoises back to the wild. In addition, assurance colonies recently started a new program to translocate their eggs to the wild. Eggs are reburied in the sanctuaries and babies will start their lives in the wild on their own. So far, hatch rate has been about 50%.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement to prevent species from becoming endangered or extinct because of international trade. The Burmese Star tortoise was moved from CITES Appendix II to the most restrictive Appendix I at the Conference of the Parties (CoP16) in Bangkok, Thailand, in March 2013.