Conservationists are not known for delivering a lot of good news. But in the Burmese roofed turtle — a giant Asian river turtle whose bug-eyed face is naturally set in a goofy grin — they have cause for celebration. Just 20 years ago, the species was presumed extinct. But after rediscovering a handful of surviving animals, scientists have grown the population to nearly 1,000 animals in captivity, some of which have been successfully released into the wild in Myanmar over the past five years.
“We came so close to losing them,” said Steven G. Platt, a herpetologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “If we didn’t intervene when we did, this turtle would have just been gone.”