National Geographic
Saving Species in the Wild

Kalyar Platt and the Burmese Star Tortoise

The Problem

Burmese Star Tortoise (Geochelone Platynota)

The striking pattern on this surprisingly vocal tortoise’s shell is usually a great protection, helping it blend in with dried leaves and grass and go unnoticed by predators. Humans, however, find the pattern alluring and demand for the shell in the high-end pet trade has driven the species to the brink of extinction in the wild.

Picture of two Burmese star tortoises at the Turtle Conservancy (2353288)
Picture of Kalyar Platt measuring eggs
Photograph by Steven G. Platt
The Solution

There’s a belief around Minzontaung Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar that Earth spirits protect tortoises and wreak vengeance on those who harm them. That makes it an ideal place for National Geographic grantee Kalyar Platt and team to release hundreds of captive-bred Burmese star tortoises. Microchips, other ID markers, and transmitters help them keep track of a few animals to monitor the success of their return to the wild.

About Kalyar Platt

Picture of Kalyar Platt with Burmese Star Tortoise
Photograph by Petch Manopawitr

Unlike her beloved animal pals, Kalyar Platt has never been slow to come out of her shell. Described as a “force of nature” and “the Indomitable Turtle Lady,” she has boldly made turtle and tortoise conservation a driving force in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Now she’s expanding star tortoise releases to Shwe Settaw Wildlife Sanctuary, and helping to protect other species as well.

Did you know?


Picture of Burmese star tortoise
Fewer than


left in the world.

Ways to Help

You may not be able to save the whole world, but you can still make a difference—no matter where you live. Here are some ways you can take action today:
Picture of Burmese Star Tortoise at the Atlanta Zoo (1102551)
  • Share this image and information. A simple tweet or post on your social media accounts can spread the word to hundreds and even thousands of others down the line.
  • Love nature on its own terms. Finding excitement and satisfaction in seeing animals free in the wild helps combat the desire to hold them in captivity for personal use.
  • Be willing to adapt. Deep-rooted cultural practices and values can do unintended harm to species and ecosystems. When your own traditions put nature at risk, keep your eyes and mind open to change.

Learn More

Picture of scientists weighing a tortoise as a part of research efforts to gather data

Cave-Dwelling Eco-Engineers  

Giant Aldabra tortoises were recently found escaping the afternoon heat in caves—behavior that may be shaping much of life on the island.

Photograph of a ploughshare tortoise (2325305)

More From the Photo Ark  

Reptiles and amphibians make up nearly 30 percent of the animals in the Photo Ark. Get to know a few of them better.

Help Save Wildlife

For the Burmese star tortoise and other wildlife, time is running out. Join National Geographic explorers, like Kalyar Platt, as they work to protect wildlife, preserve the last wild places on the planet, and push the boundaries of discovery.

Picture of Burmese star tortoise (1102552)



Get Updates

Learn how you can help change the world. Get updates from our explorers in the field who are working to save the Burmese star tortoise, lions, elephants, and other threatened wildlife, and find out how you can help in our work to explore and protect the planet.

Follow Photo Ark

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