This impressed tortoise (Manouria impressa) was discovered crossing a dirt track in the Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Myanmar. Nothing unusual about that – except that it is some 850 km from its known geographic range.
Far from being lost, it is likely that this area comprises part of its distribution range. Originally believed to be found only in western Myanmar, and parts of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, southern China, and south through Peninsular Malaysia, this discovery now extends its range by an additional 845km (estimated) northwards.
The WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) researchers that discovered the tortoise examined and photographed it before releasing it into the dense foliage beside the road. It published a paper documenting its discovery in the latest issue of Asian Herpetological Research journal.
Co-author Steven Platt, WCS Herpetologist for Southeast Asia and China, said, “Because the species is extremely difficult to maintain and propagate in captivity, protecting wild populations is the recommended conservation option. Given its size, relatively low human population density, and widespread availability of suitable upland forest habitat Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary could play a vital role in future efforts to protect it.”
Currently listed as “vulnerable to extinction” by IUCN, the tortoise is difficult to keep in captivity. It has a flattened carapace with a serrated rim, as well as concave scutes (from which it gets its name). It is under threat from habitat destruction, high demand in commercial wildlife markets and pet trade, and unsustainable subsistence harvesting.