An interview-based survey to determine the conservation status of Softshell Turtles (Reptilia: Trionychidae) in the Irrawaddy Dolphin Protected Area, Myanmar

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Steven G. Platt
Tint Lwin
Naing Win
Htay Lin Aung
Kalyar Platt
Thomas R. Rainwater


We conducted an interview-based survey to investigate the conservation status of large (adult carapace length >400mm) Softshell Turtles (Amyda ornata, Chitra vandijki, and Nilssonia formosa) in the Irrawaddy Dolphin Protected Area (IDPA) of Myanmar during November 2015.  Our objectives were to: (1) determine which species of Softshell Turtles occur in IDPA, (2) assess threats to these populations, (3) evaluate the protected area as a release site for captive-bred Softshell Turtles, and (4) make conservation recommendations.  To this end, we interviewed 180 people (mostly males) in 30 villages and verified the occurrence of all three species of Softshell Turtles in IDPA.  Softshell Turtle populations appear to have undergone precipitous declines during the last 10–15 years largely driven by commercial demand from the illegal trans-boundary wildlife trade with China.  Turtle hunting is no longer considered economically worthwhile, but Softshell Turtles continue to be taken as fisheries by-catch.  We recommend that existing regulations designed to protect dolphins be enforced, and most importantly electro-fishing be eliminated from IDPA.  We also urge authorities to revisit earlier proposals to reduce or eliminate the use of monofilament gill netting in IDPA.  Implementation of a community-based fisheries plan to address these issues is warranted.  In lieu of effective action, Softshell Turtle populations in IDPA face almost certain extirpation in the near future.  IDPA is currently considered unsuitable as a release site for captive-bred Softshell Turtles. 

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