Multi-agency tie-up to boost population of endangered turtles in Assam by 2030
The endangered turtle conservation project in Assam has received a further boost through a multi-stakeholder association that aims to restock the wild, viable, self-sufficient and genetically pure threatened turtle population in the region.
The Kamrup district administration, Assam state zoo and two front-line NGOs – Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) India and Help Earth – have signed a memorandum for long-term conservation of the rare freshwater black soft-shell turtle at Hayagriva Madhava Temple in Hajo, about 40 km from here.
The signing ceremony held recently at the Kamrup deputy commissioner’s office also marked the launch of a vision document 2030 for Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans).
The vision document envisions establishing an ecologically viable population of 1000 adults of black soft-shell turtle Assam by 2030.
Various temple ponds in Assam such as the Hayagriva Madhava Temple at Hajo harbour various threatened species of turtles.
Turtle Survival Alliance will offer assistance for the required improvement of the husbandry of the turtles kept in such ponds.
Black Soft-shell Turtle is a species thought to be ‘Extinct in Wild’, only being confined to some religious sites in Northeastern India and Bangladesh.
However, based on the preliminary information, its IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) status has been downlisted to ‘Critically Endangered’ in 2021 but does not enjoy legal protection under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
It was also proposed that hatchlings from Upper Assam be retained at the Nature Discovery Centre, Biswanath Ghat under the aegis of TSA India for proper upkeep and monitoring before release to the wild.
Traditionally being hunted for its meat and cartilage and challenged by the illegal trade in regional and international markets, the recent sightings indicate the presence of a fragmented population, though the number of adult individuals may be drastically low.
The species has a limited scope towards natural population recovery unless supplemented with sustainable conservation initiatives.
The two NGOs along with the Assam forest department have been working tirelessly over the years for the conservation of black soft-shell turtles in the selected temple ponds of Assam and their pilot release to the wild.
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