Introduction To The Burmese Star Tortoise

Cowgirl

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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.
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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?
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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.
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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:
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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.
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7. They are gorgeous. Simply beautiful to look at:
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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:
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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.
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Cowgirl

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Hi Tom, I am new on this forum and what a lot of great information. I recently acquired 6 Burmese Stars from Mark. I appreciate all of the information you provide and especially this thread and the care sheets you have published.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Hi Tom, I am new on this forum and what a lot of great information. I recently acquired 6 Burmese Stars from Mark. I appreciate all of the information you provide and especially this thread and the care sheets you have published.
You bought from the best. Prepare to enjoy the next few years watching them grow in to wonderful adult tortoises. As you can see from this thread, I'm a huge fan of the species. Two of my girls just gave me 20 new eggs in the last few days.
 

C2thaJ

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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?
Great read! I completely agree with everything in this post. I ended up with my first Burmese back in 2020 in a trade not knowing much about them. That male (we call him Bernie) quickly became my favorite. This year I have decided to try to breed them. I look forward to learning as much as I can from this forum.
 
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BTM

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Hey Tom,......hope you see this, as this thread us is pretty old......
Question......I have a 3/12 year old Burmese Star, I got it from Mark.....my question is regarding him living outside. I live in Hawaii, and the temperature can get down into the 60'at night in my area. Other than that the weather is perfect temp and humidity. Until now, he was raised in a closed chamber system I bought from Mark along with the tort. My goal os for him to live outside 24/7....biggest concern is whether or not he'll be needing a heated hide...
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Hey Tom,......hope you see this, as this thread us is pretty old......
Question......I have a 3/12 year old Burmese Star, I got it from Mark.....my question is regarding him living outside. I live in Hawaii, and the temperature can get down into the 60'at night in my area. Other than that the weather is perfect temp and humidity. Until now, he was raised in a closed chamber system I bought from Mark along with the tort. My goal os for him to live outside 24/7....biggest concern is whether or not he'll be needing a heated hide...
Absolutely. You will need to protect the tortoise from nocturnal predators and pests, as well as those cold winter temps you guys get sometimes. I did a job in Honolulu a few years back in December, and the night temps dropped into the 60s. The locals were freezing to death, and even I needed a light jacket due to the trade winds.

In any case, the simple solution to your problem is a heated night box, like this:

Make sure he is in there every night and latch I'm in. Then open the door every morning, and he can come out when he wants, or stay in and stay warm.

Here is another box just to show more about how they are constructed. A 4x4 is plenty for a single tortoise, and this will be a nice place for him to hang out on a cold rainy day.
 

BTM

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Absolutely. You will need to protect the tortoise from nocturnal predators and pests, as well as those cold winter temps you guys get sometimes. I did a job in Honolulu a few years back in December, and the night temps dropped into the 60s. The locals were freezing to death, and even I needed a light jacket due to the trade winds.

In any case, the simple solution to your problem is a heated night box, like this:

Make sure he is in there every night and latch I'm in. Then open the door every morning, and he can come out when he wants, or stay in and stay warm.

Here is another box just to show more about how they are constructed. A 4x4 is plenty for a single tortoise, and this will be a nice place for him to hang out on a cold rainy day.
Thanks so much for getting back to me and for the info! Wow, looks like a quite a project....I'll dig in see what you got there, I sure do wish they were available pre-fab....of course getting shipped to Hawaii wouldn't be the easiest lol.
Thanks again Tom for all of your invaluable information!
 

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