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Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) Fact Sheet: Summary

Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) Fact Sheet

Adult Burmese star tortoise at San Diego Zoo

Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

 

Taxonomy

Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia — reptiles

Order: Testudines — tortoises, turtles, terrapins

Family: Testudidae

Genus: Geochelone

Species: Geochelone platynota — Burmese Star Tortoise, Flatback Tortoise

Straight Carapace Length

Male: up to 25 cm (9.8 in)
Female: approximately 32 cm (13 in)
*Larger in cases of gigantism (see Physical Characteristics)

Body Weight

Typically up to 3 kg (7 lb) but substantial variation

General Appearance

Medium-sized tortoise with oval-shaped shell. Light brown to black with typically 1-6 stripes radiating out from yellow patches. Front of legs covered by pointed and rounded yellow, bony scales.

Distribution & Status

Behavior & Ecology

Range

Wildlife sanctuaries within Central Myanmar’s national protected area system. Prior to near extinction, Dry Zone of Central Myanmar.

Habitat

Dry scrub forests, deciduous forest, scrub bamboo forests, grasslands. Also hedgerows, pastures, and agricultural fields.

IUCN Status

Critically Endangered (2018 assessment)

CITES Appendix

Appendix I

Other Designations

Protected status under Myanmar’s 1994 Protection of Wildlife, Wild Plants and Conservation of Natural Areas Law.

Populations in the Wild

Very rough estimate of 2,000-3,000 individuals.

Populations in Myanmar breeding program

Approximately 10,000 individuals

Threats to Survival

Hunting/poaching, especially for international trade, and habitat loss

Activity Patterns

Not well known. May be similar to other tortoises living in arid ecosystems.

Movements

Not well known. Reintroduced individuals remain close to release area, if become familiar with the area.

Diet

Mainly grasses and other vegetation; flowers, fruits, seeds; mosses and fungi. Rarely, eat invertebrates and scavenge on carrion.

Predators

Wild pig, Eurasian golden jackal, rats. Possibly snakes, birds, and large cats (needs confirmation).

Reproduction & Development

Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity

Approximately 6 to 8 years of age

Incubation Period

197 days, on average (range: 172 to 251)

Clutch Size

Typically 4 to 7 eggs per clutch, up to 16

Interbirth Interval

1 to 4 clutches per breeding season

Hatching

In Myanmar, mid-May to late July

Weight at Hatching

About 15 g (0.5 oz)

Longevity

In the wild: possibly more than 50 years
In managed care: at least 35 to 40 years

Feature Facts

  • One of the world’s most endangered tortoises
  • Named for star-shaped pattern on its shell; camouflages star tortoises under grasses
  • Little known about this species’ ecology in the wild
  • Seek refuge underground during fires and the dry season
  • Nearly went extinct by early 2000s after emergence of international trade markets
  • Reintroduced to protected areas in Myanmar as result of successful conservation breeding program
  • Young head-started for several years to increase survival rates after release
  • Threats to survival include illegal trafficking, subsistence harvesting, and habitat loss
  • Tight security at sanctuaries, including physical barriers and guard patrols, to prevent poaching
  • Conservation efforts include community-focused education programs, and support from local villages and religious groups
  • Some Myanmar peoples believe star tortoises protected by mountain spirits

About This Fact Sheet

For detailed information, click the tabs at the top of this page.

 

© 2022 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

 

How to cite: Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone platynota) Fact Sheet. c2022. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/burmese-star-tortoise.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2019 Dec 31)

 

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to library@sdzwa.org.

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Nathan Haislip for providing expert content review of this fact sheet.

As a biologist, Haislip studied amphibian and reptile ecology, reproduction, and diseases. He has co-authored several studies in Myanmar herpetology, including studies of Burmese Flapshell and Burmese Roofed Turtles. He also has extensive knowledge of animal training and husbandry practices, notably for rare and endangered reptiles.

Haislip served as the Turtle Survival Alliance's Lead Keeper and Facilities Manager from 2014 to 2020, and now works in media and technology. Haislip earned a M.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science and a B.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.


Thank you to Dr. Steven G. Platt for sharing his knowledge of Burmese Star Tortoise biology and conservation.

Platt is an Associate Conservation Herpetologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society who leads turtle and crocodile species recovery projects in Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand) and China. Since 2011, Platt and his team have directed efforts to reintroduce Burmese Star Tortoises to protected areas in Myanmar’s Dry Zone. Platt and his collaborators have published extensively on Burmese Star Tortoise conservation, reintroduction, rearing and husbandry, and general biology (see Bibliography).

Learn more about Dr. Platt's conservation work in Myanmar.


Thank you to Cassandra Paul, Library Assistant with the Wildlife Conservation Society's Library & Archives, for providing copies of several valuable research reports.

Tortoise Conservation

Burmese star tortoise

The Burmese Star Tortoise is one of the world’s most endangered tortoises.

A successful conservation breeding program prevented the extinction of this species.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

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