Introduction To The Burmese Star Tortoise

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
59,282
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I've been wanting to do this thread for a long time... This species has become one of my all time favorites, and for good reasons! The purpose of all of my ramblings that follow are primarily intended to showcase how great this species is and why its a better species for most people than most other species. Many people dismiss them as a "high end" specialty tortoise that is out of their reach, but the price of this species is dropping, and the price of every other species is rising. That gap isn't such a gap anymore. My intention is to encourage more people to buy, breed and work with this wonderful species. They have brought me so much joy, fun, and happiness, that I want to share them with the world.
IMG_4255.JPG

Let's start with their history. Geochelone platynota come from Myanmar, and they have been functionally extinct in the wild for more than a decade. We talk about how endangered radiata are (estimated 6.5 million left in the wild), or how few ploughshares are left in the wild (estimated around 200 in a relatively small inaccessible area), but this species is EXTINCT in the wild. They've tried to re-introduce them to the wild from captive breeding facilities, and it has not gone so well for all the same reasons they went extinct in the first place. The story I've gotten is that around 200 of them were legally imported into the US from a captive breeding facility in the native country in 1998. Those were dispersed and bred, and if my numbers are correct, I bought babies from the babies of the imports. Forgive me if I'm off by a generation or two. I honestly don't even remember when this species first appeared on my radar, but I initially dismissed them as too expensive, rare, and I mistakenly thought they were a lot like the Indian stars, Geochelone elegans. Indian Stars, in my opinion, are very shy, reclusive, and also known to be delicate. Some Indian star owners will take offense and wish to argue these points about their chosen species, but I've seen so many of them that fit my description. While the elegans are certainly beautiful to look at, they have never been a species I've wanted to personally work with because of what I've seen of them. When I finally got to know platynota, I found them to be opposite of the elegans in almost every way except for size and appearance. I got my first platyota babies in 2013. Anyone reading should feel free to comment, correct me, or add to this passage. This thread is intended to engender discussion!

My philosophical musings: How does one choose a tortoise species to bring into their home? What are the criteria? Size, shape, color, patterns, fecundity, ease of keeping and feeding, the challenge of a "difficult" species, price, personality? Every one will have different ideas and desires that will lead them to the species of their choice. Few of us have the time, space and resources to work with every species that we want to work with, so how are all those great choices narrowed down?
IMG_2285.jpg

Here are the traits of the Burmese star that won me over and made me choose this species to work with over so many other great species:
1. Hardiness. In the wild they get temps down to 50F and over 100F. They have a rainy season and a dry season. They tolerate high humidity and they tolerate low humidity. They tolerate hot climates, and they tolerate cooler climates. They are highly adaptable. They do well for anyone anywhere with minimal temperature help. As adults, they live and thrive outdoors full time with a heated shelter in milder climates, but they also do just fine in large indoor closed chamber for people who live in climates with freezing winters.

2. Smaller, more manageable size. I like giants. I have the space, climate and resources to handle giants. Many people don't have one or all of those. I would not attempt to house any of the giants if I didn't live in a climate where they could be outside full time. Platynota males get up to about 9 inches, and females seldom pass 11 inches. This is small enough to live indoors in winter in a harsh climate, and relatively easy to house outdoors in a normal yard. Their size is manageable. After dealing with the daily destruction and mess caused by my sulcatas and other large tortoises, its nice to walk over to the relatively small enclosures (8x28 feet) of my stars and just admire their activities. No messes. No giant turds everywhere. No burrows dug or hillsides destroyed. No plants unearthed, knocked over and denuded. At night I can pick them up with one hand on the rare occasion that they don't all go into their night boxes on their own. Their small size is a pleasant and refreshing change for me, and it certainly makes them easier for anyone else to deal with them too.

3. Ease of feeding. Simply put, they eat everything. Additionally, unlike Testudo and some other species, they love grass. My stars eat two dozen different weeds, clover, hibiscus, opuntia, grasses, grocery store greens, Mazuri, ZooMed chow, leaves from mulberry trees and grapevines, alfalfa, flowers... They will eat anything you've got. They eat dried add ins from torotisesupply.com and kapidolofarms.com. They eat all their food when I put calcium or vitamin powder on it. I don't know how it could be any easier, and because of their small size, it does't take much to feed a whole herd of them.
IMG_1451.JPG
IMG_5476.JPG

4. They are gorgeous. Stunning radiating yellow lines that contrast with the black background. Their shape is also pleasing to my eyes. They disappear in dappled sun:
IMG_7100.jpg

5. Personality. This species is bold and outgoing. They are curious and follow me around their pen to see what I'm doing even when food isn't involved. They readily approach me, and they will walk right by me without a care, if they are on their way somewhere. I don't like shyness in my tortoise species. That is a trait I avoid.

6. They breed readily and easily. Not everyone wants to breed, but I do. Especially this species. They only exist in captive conditions. I do not want them to ever die out. I want the genetics of the ones I have to be all over the USA, so that if ever anything happens, these genes will live on. I have six adult females and five males. My very first year of breeding only five were laying and I got 50 babies. Year two saw 84 babies from the same five females. We are in year three and we stand at 76 so far, with the sixth female finally coming online. I've bred a few tortoises from a few species. I like to think I have a little experience and know what I'm doing. Whatever it is I'm doing, the sum of al the things I've learned, seems to really really agree with this species. I do not think I am some master of tortoise breeding, but my platynota herd keeps blessing me with 100% hatch rates. None of my other species do that. I have had a couple of sulcata clutches go 100%, but most do not. There are always a couple few eggs that don't develop for whatever reason. Not so with platynota for me. It has become unusual for any egg they lay to not hatch into a beautiful healthy baby.
IMG_3751.JPG
4:29:19 2.JPG
IMG_2211.JPG
IMG_3578.JPG

7. They are gorgeous. Simply beautiful to look at:
IMG_3135.JPG
IMG_8618.JPG

8. They are hardy. Because they are so adaptable to different climates, conditions and housing styles, they just don't die. It is understandably nerve wracking to invest hundreds of dollars in a tortoise and then worry about it dropping dead. These don't. Their care is the same as it is for sulcatas, leopards, and pancakes. Simple. Easy. Keep the warm and humid as babies. Give them a night box when its time to live outside in a mild climate like Southern CA:
IMG_5600.JPG

9. And finally, they get along. All ages and all sexes. This is WONDERFUL. I had to separate all of my male SA leopards at 18 months. Had to make and maintain a separate enclosure for each and every one of them. Its always dicey trying to put groups of some species together. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just doesn't. With platynota it just works. All the time. Multiple males, bachelor herds, multiple female groups, mixed groups of multiple males and females all together... Any combo. They never fight. They mix and mingle, interact, and I never see any territorial or aggressive behavior.

To summarize: Easy to feed, easy to house, hardy and strong, personable, not shy, pretty, manageable size, easy to keep in groups, can live outside full time, or live indoors for winter in any climate, easy to breed, easy to start babies, and they just have this overall likability.

Questions are welcome. I hope this thread will generate more interest for this species. I have lots of babies that need homes, and more on the way.
IMG_1302.jpg
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
59,282
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Very nice thread Tom, thank you for sharing your success. Their size seems great for us cold weather tort keepers. Much more manageable.

I can barely lift our Sully now, makes moving about a lot more difficult.

What do you adults weigh in at?
You know, I haven't weighed the adults in years. When starting babies, I find it best to separate the males and females as soon as the sexes are known, and let them grow up separately. This was around 18-20 months for me with the platynota. I do this will all species. I was told to not let the males have access until the females reach at least 3000 grams. I followed this advice and it all worked out wonderfully. The females have grown a bit since then, but not that much. I'll put them on a scale today.

In this species, the females get much larger than the males. I'll get weights for both.
 

TammyJ

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2016
Messages
4,637
Location (City and/or State)
Jamaica
They are great!!! Love them and happy to learn about them!
 

Maro2Bear

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
May 29, 2014
Messages
14,412
Location (City and/or State)
Glenn Dale, Maryland, USA
You know, I haven't weighed the adults in years. When starting babies, I find it best to separate the males and females as soon as the sexes are known, and let them grow up separately. This was around 18-20 months for me with the platynota. I do this will all species. I was told to not let the males have access until the females reach at least 3000 grams. I followed this advice and it all worked out wonderfully. The females have grown a bit since then, but not that much. I'll put them on a scale today.

In this species, the females get much larger than the males. I'll get weights for both.

Great Tom. 🐢
 

Markw84

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
4,916
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
Very nice thread Tom, thank you for sharing your success. Their size seems great for us cold weather tort keepers. Much more manageable.

I can barely lift our Sully now, makes moving about a lot more difficult.

What do you adults weigh in at?
I love this thread and feel exactly the same way as @Tom about these amazing tortoises. I got into this species upon a recommendation by Tom the year after he started with them. I am so grateful I did. They are indeed a joy to work with.

My adult females range from 4500g to the largest at 6500g. So from 10lbs to 14lbs. I have 4 adult producing females and they have stayed at those weight pretty steadily the past 3 years now. The range in age from 8 to 11 years old.
 

Bredlawskk

New Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2021
Messages
9
Location (City and/or State)
Durham
Great post! Very informative. Thanks for sharing @Tom. Beautiful tortoises you have there, not that we would expect any less!
 

TaylorTortoise

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2020
Messages
1,477
Location (City and/or State)
Abington
I've been wanting to do this thread for a long time... This species has become one of my all time favorites, and for good reasons! The purpose of all of my ramblings that follow are primarily intended to showcase how great this species is and why its a better species for most people than most other species. Many people dismiss them as a "high end" specialty tortoise that is out of their reach, but the price of this species is dropping, and the price of every other species is rising. That gap isn't such a gap anymore. My intention is to encourage more people to buy, breed and work with this wonderful species. They have brought me so much joy, fun, and happiness, that I want to share them with the world.
View attachment 346242

Let's start with their history. Geochelone platynota come from Myanmar, and they have been functionally extinct in the wild for more than a decade. We talk about how endangered radiata are (estimated 6.5 million left in the wild), or how few ploughshares are left in the wild (estimated around 200 in a relatively small inaccessible area), but this species is EXTINCT in the wild. They've tried to re-introduce them to the wild from captive breeding facilities, and it has not gone so well for all the same reasons they went extinct in the first place. The story I've gotten is that around 200 of them were legally imported into the US from a captive breeding facility in the native country in 1998. Those were dispersed and bred, and if my numbers are correct, I bought babies from the babies of the imports. Forgive me if I'm off by a generation or two. I honestly don't even remember when this species first appeared on my radar, but I initially dismissed them as too expensive, rare, and I mistakenly thought they were a lot like the Indian stars, Geochelone elegans. Indian Stars, in my opinion, are very shy, reclusive, and also known to be delicate. Some Indian star owners will take offense and wish to argue these points about their chosen species, but I've seen so many of them that fit my description. While the elegans are certainly beautiful to look at, they have never been a species I've wanted to personally work with because of what I've seen of them. When I finally got to know platynota, I found them to be opposite of the elegans in almost every way except for size and appearance. I got my first platyota babies in 2013. Anyone reading should feel free to comment, correct me, or add to this passage. This thread is intended to engender discussion!

My philosophical musings: How does one choose a tortoise species to bring into their home? What are the criteria? Size, shape, color, patterns, fecundity, ease of keeping and feeding, the challenge of a "difficult" species, price, personality? Every one will have different ideas and desires that will lead them to the species of their choice. Few of us have the time, space and resources to work with every species that we want to work with, so how are all those great choices narrowed down?
View attachment 346243

Here are the traits of the Burmese star that won me over and made me choose this species to work with over so many other great species:
1. Hardiness. In the wild they get temps down to 50F and over 100F. They have a rainy season and a dry season. They tolerate high humidity and they tolerate low humidity. They tolerate hot climates, and they tolerate cooler climates. They are highly adaptable. They do well for anyone anywhere with minimal temperature help. As adults, they live and thrive outdoors full time with a heated shelter in milder climates, but they also do just fine in large indoor closed chamber for people who live in climates with freezing winters.

2. Smaller, more manageable size. I like giants. I have the space, climate and resources to handle giants. Many people don't have one or all of those. I would not attempt to house any of the giants if I didn't live in a climate where they could be outside full time. Platynota males get up to about 9 inches, and females seldom pass 11 inches. This is small enough to live indoors in winter in a harsh climate, and relatively easy to house outdoors in a normal yard. Their size is manageable. After dealing with the daily destruction and mess caused by my sulcatas and other large tortoises, its nice to walk over to the relatively small enclosures (8x28 feet) of my stars and just admire their activities. No messes. No giant turds everywhere. No burrows dug or hillsides destroyed. No plants unearthed, knocked over and denuded. At night I can pick them up with one hand on the rare occasion that they don't all go into their night boxes on their own. Their small size is a pleasant and refreshing change for me, and it certainly makes them easier for anyone else to deal with them too.

3. Ease of feeding. Simply put, they eat everything. Additionally, unlike Testudo and some other species, they love grass. My stars eat two dozen different weeds, clover, hibiscus, opuntia, grasses, grocery store greens, Mazuri, ZooMed chow, leaves from mulberry trees and grapevines, alfalfa, flowers... They will eat anything you've got. They eat dried add ins from torotisesupply.com and kapidolofarms.com. They eat all their food when I put calcium or vitamin powder on it. I don't know how it could be any easier, and because of their small size, it does't take much to feed a whole herd of them.
View attachment 346244
View attachment 346245

4. They are gorgeous. Stunning radiating yellow lines that contrast with the black background. Their shape is also pleasing to my eyes. They disappear in dappled sun:
View attachment 346246

5. Personality. This species is bold and outgoing. They are curious and follow me around their pen to see what I'm doing even when food isn't involved. They readily approach me, and they will walk right by me without a care, if they are on their way somewhere. I don't like shyness in my tortoise species. That is a trait I avoid.

6. They breed readily and easily. Not everyone wants to breed, but I do. Especially this species. They only exist in captive conditions. I do not want them to ever die out. I want the genetics of the ones I have to be all over the USA, so that if ever anything happens, these genes will live on. I have six adult females and five males. My very first year of breeding only five were laying and I got 50 babies. Year two saw 84 babies from the same five females. We are in year three and we stand at 76 so far, with the sixth female finally coming online. I've bred a few tortoises from a few species. I like to think I have a little experience and know what I'm doing. Whatever it is I'm doing, the sum of al the things I've learned, seems to really really agree with this species. I do not think I am some master of tortoise breeding, but my platynota herd keeps blessing me with 100% hatch rates. None of my other species do that. I have had a couple of sulcata clutches go 100%, but most do not. There are always a couple few eggs that don't develop for whatever reason. Not so with platynota for me. It has become unusual for any egg they lay to not hatch into a beautiful healthy baby.
View attachment 346250
View attachment 346247
View attachment 346248
View attachment 346249

7. They are gorgeous. Simply beautiful to look at:
View attachment 346251
View attachment 346252

8. They are hardy. Because they are so adaptable to different climates, conditions and housing styles, they just don't die. It is understandably nerve wracking to invest hundreds of dollars in a tortoise and then worry about it dropping dead. These don't. Their care is the same as it is for sulcatas, leopards, and pancakes. Simple. Easy. Keep the warm and humid as babies. Give them a night box when its time to live outside in a mild climate like Southern CA:
View attachment 346253

9. And finally, they get along. All ages and all sexes. This is WONDERFUL. I had to separate all of my male SA leopards at 18 months. Had to make and maintain a separate enclosure for each and every one of them. Its always dicey trying to put groups of some species together. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just doesn't. With platynota it just works. All the time. Multiple males, bachelor herds, multiple female groups, mixed groups of multiple males and females all together... Any combo. They never fight. They mix and mingle, interact, and I never see any territorial or aggressive behavior.

To summarize: Easy to feed, easy to house, hardy and strong, personable, not shy, pretty, manageable size, easy to keep in groups, can live outside full time, or live indoors for winter in any climate, easy to breed, easy to start babies, and they just have this overall likability.

Questions are welcome. I hope this thread will generate more interest for this species. I have lots of babies that need homes, and more on the way.
View attachment 346254 IF this species stayed on the smaller end, I would consider, Or if you could mix certain species with other subspecies.
 

TammyJ

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2016
Messages
4,637
Location (City and/or State)
Jamaica
Can tortoises be imported to Jamaica? I'm not familiar with their laws...
It's just about impossible unless you officially operate a zoo, or are rich and have Friends in High Places.
Thanks for your offer!!!
 

TammyJ

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2016
Messages
4,637
Location (City and/or State)
Jamaica
It's just about impossible unless you officially operate a zoo, or are rich and have Friends in High Places.
Thanks for your offer!!!
Tammy. You forgot about the Friends in LOW Places. Either one will do.
 

g4mobile

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2018
Messages
180
Location (City and/or State)
Fort Lauderdale, FL
This post was very informative and the tortoise pictures made it that much better. Beautiful tortoises Tom! I purchased a baby Burmese star from @Tom 4 years ago and it's been a wonderful experience raising him. Our tortoise is now 6"+ and living outside full time in South Florida. He follows me around, loves shell and head scratches and eats from your hand. Great personality. He is in a 250 SqFt enclosed space outside. I'd really like to add a female, but I know that I would need two females for my single male. I don't think 250 SqFt is enough space for all three, but maybe I can come up with something in the future that will work. I never thought I would consider breeding tortoises, but I think it would be a great experience and what a wonderful species to work with.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
59,282
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
This post was very informative and the tortoise pictures made it that much better. Beautiful tortoises Tom! I purchased a baby Burmese star from @Tom 4 years ago and it's been a wonderful experience raising him. Our tortoise is now 6"+ and living outside full time in South Florida. He follows me around, loves shell and head scratches and eats from your hand. Great personality. He is in a 250 SqFt enclosed space outside. I'd really like to add a female, but I know that I would need two females for my single male. I don't think 250 SqFt is enough space for all three, but maybe I can come up with something in the future that will work. I never thought I would consider breeding tortoises, but I think it would be a great experience and what a wonderful species to work with.
250sq.ft would be 25x10 feet. That's plenty of room for a trio or quad. Your torts parents are in an 8x32 which is 256sq.ft. and that is 2 males and 3 females.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
59,282
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I got some fresh pics of all my adults today that I thought I would share with a bit of their backstory. I originally purchased 14 babies in 2013. All of them were "incubated for female". I figured I would probably get a male or two in the group, and could always get more males later if I wanted, but I wanted a female heavy group.

I got four babies from Scott Pasqua in Florida. They ended up two male and two female.

I got four babies from Ken Siffert in New York. They also ended up two males and two females.

I got two babies from John at Coastal Silkworms. These are my high yellow ones. One male and one female.

A few months later, I managed to procure four more from what was then called the Behler Center, but is now called The Turtle Conservancy. 3 males and one female from this group.

I was trying to get a bunch that were totally unrelated, and I think I succeeded. So from 14 babies that were all "incubated for female", I got 6 females and 8 males. I would have preferred the other way around, but I'm not complaining. My 6 females are producing lots of babies now. Hoping to make 100 babies in 2022, with only 24 more needed to hatch by December 31st. We produced 84 last year, and that was from only 5 of the females. The Behler center tortoises were started much too dry, so they grew slower, matured slower, and retained the heavier pyramiding that they came with. She was the last female to reproduce, and I got my first babies from my her this year. Two clutches so far. She threw one baby with a lot more yellow than normal. Perhaps it was sired by the high yellow Texas male?
IMG_7008.jpg

I sold off three of the surplus males and now have 11 adults. I keep them in two separated breeding groups. The males from Ken are with the females from Scott. The male and female high yellows from Texas are separated. One group is 3.3 and the other group is 2.3. Here is group number one:

High yellow male from Texas:
1. High Yellow Male.jpg

Behler Center male #1:
3. Behelr Male #1.jpg

Male from Florida:
2. Pink #1 Male.jpg

Behler Center female:
4. Behler Female.jpg

Female from New York:
5. Blue #2 Female.jpg

Female #2 from New York:
6. Blue #4.jpg


That is breeding group number one, and here are the five that make up breeding group number two:
Behler Center male #2:
7. Behler Male #2.jpg

This one is named "Football" because that's how he is shaped. He's my largest male and he's from New York:
8. Blue #1 Male.jpg

Florida female #1:
9. Pink #2 Female.jpg

Florida female #2:
10. Pink #4 Female.jpg

And finally, my high yellow female from Texas:
11. Green Female.jpg

These two groups live side by side in separate enclosures, and get along just fine in their groups. They all come running when I go into their enclosures, and they eat like little piggies. I enjoy them all immensely.

Questions are welcome.
 

TammyJ

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2016
Messages
4,637
Location (City and/or State)
Jamaica
They are wonderful!!! Love me that boy from New York...gonna steal him away...!
 

g4mobile

Active Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2018
Messages
180
Location (City and/or State)
Fort Lauderdale, FL
These are great pictures! This thread includes the best adult Burmese Star photos I've ever come across. "Football" looks huge. Is he 10"?
 

TammyJ

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2016
Messages
4,637
Location (City and/or State)
Jamaica
Tom, you said that "they only exist in captive conditions." Does this mean that they are extinct in the wild?
 

New Posts

Top