The Burmese star tortoise was almost history.
By the early 2000s, the natives of central Myanmar’s deserts had dwindled to such low counts in the wild that ecologists declared them functionally extinct. About the size of a football when mature, the animals sported yellow polygon patterns across their shells that helped them camouflage in dry grasses but also made them attractive as exotic pets, smuggled for thousands of dollars to the United States, Europe and other parts of Asia.
Now, it appears that an eleventh-hour effort has pulled the species from the edge of extinction, according to a recent paper in the journal Herpetological Review. Steven Platt, a herpetologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, and his collaborators outlined how setting up captive-bred assurance colonies in Myanmar has boosted the tortoise’s prospects...