The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is pleased to join the Turtle Survival Alliance in announcing that the 10th Annual John L. Behler Turtle Conservation Award has been presented to Kalyar Platt, Turtle Conservation Coordinator in Myanmar for the Turtle Survival Alliance. The award was presented at the 13th Annual Symposium on the Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles in Tucson, Arizona on August 9. Kalyar is the first female recipient of this prestigious honor, as well as the youngest honoree in the award’s history.
The Behler Turtle Conservation Award was established in 2006 to honor leadership and excellence in the field of tortoise and freshwater turtle conservation. The award honors the memory of John L. Behler, previous Chair of the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group and Curator of Herpetology at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo.
The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Turtle Survival Alliance have long collaborated together in Myanmar. Currently, WCS has a team of 7 expert herpetologists teaming up with Kalyar Platt on multiple turtle conservation projects across the country.
Kalyar was born in 1972 and grew up in Yangon, Burma (present-day Myanmar). She attended Yangon University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors in 1995 and her Master of Science degree in 2000. Hoping to pursue intellectual opportunities abroad, Kalyar moved to Bangkok in 2001 and began working for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Thailand. She was admitted into the graduate program at Chulalongkorn University where in 2007, she earned her Doctorate.
Soon after, she moved to the United States to be with her husband, Steven Platt, also a conservationist, who had taken a teaching position at Sul Ross University in Texas. Together they dreamed of one day returning to Myanmar and devoting their energies to turtle conservation. In 2010, that dream became a reality when Kalyar was hired to spearhead the TSA’s Myanmar Program while Steven started working as herpetologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Southeast Asia.
Kalyar’s accomplishments bespeak of her abilities. To reenergize the nearly defunct Burmese Star Tortoise conservation program, Kalyar organized a national conservation workshop, and together with the participants developed an action plan outlining how and where to restore this iconic species. The result? Nearly 250 Star Tortoises — almost extinct in the wild before Kalyar’s efforts have since been reintroduced to the wild, and over 6,000 now exist in captive colonies in Myanmar.
In addition to Star Tortoises, Kalyar worked tirelessly to bring the Burmese Roofed Turtle back from the edge of extinction. Her efforts included overseeing the collection of eggs from the Chindwin River, establishing three captive assurance colonies for this species, and boosting production of hatchlings at the Mandalay Zoo. The first release to the wild of headstarted Burmese Roofed Turtles was earlier this year.
On receiving the award Kalyar said, “It is very special to me, especially knowing who has received it in the past and who elected me for the award. It is a tremendous vote of confidence. Turtle conservation is my passion and I will continue to devote my life to saving the unique turtles in my country.”