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Conserving Assam temple turtles launched


Recently, the Assam forest department has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with two Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and adopted a Vision Document to raise at least 1,000 black softshell turtles by 2030.


Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Ecology and Biodiversity, Species in news)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Black softshell turtle
  2. Turtles and Turtle conservation in India

About Black softshell turtle

  • The black softshell turtle or Bostami turtle is a species of freshwater turtle found in India (Assam) and Bangladesh (Chittagong and Sylhet).
  • Previously declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2002, these turtles were found still to exist in a temple’s pond called the Hayagriva Madhava Temple located in Assam, India.
  • Through conservation methods and protection of the species, some of these turtles can be found today throughout the wild, and scientists and environmental biologists are continuing to work hard to preserve this endangered species and their natural habitat.
  • Originally native to the lower Brahmaputra River, the only population ever reliably known consists of a small number of the species in a man-made pond which is part of the Bayazid Bostami shrine at Chittagong, where they are dependent on humans for survival. To the locals and worshipers, the black softshell turtle is known as mazari (“Mazar inhabitant”); specimens from this shrine were used in the first scientific description.
  • A freshwater species and there are 29 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises found in India.
  • They are found in ponds of temples in northeastern India and Bangladesh. Its distribution range also includes the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries.
  • It is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List and also in Appendix 1 of CITES. However, it does not find any legal protection under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (WPA).
  • Consumption of turtle meat and eggs, silt mining, encroachment of wetlands and change in flooding pattern are the major threats faced by the species.

Turtles and Turtle conservation in India

  • There are five turtle species in Indian waters — Leatherback, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Green and Olive Ridley.
  • In India sea turtles are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, under the Schedule I Part II.
  • Every year, thousands of sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured or killed by mechanised boats, trawl nets and gill nets operated and used by comercial fishermen.
  • The turtle breeding season is usually between November and December. In Tamil Nadu, for example, the Olive Ridley nests between December and April along the Chennai-Kancheepuram coastline.
  • Sea turtles, especially the leatherback, keep jellyfish under control, thereby helping to maintain healthy fish stocks in the oceans.
  • The Green turtle feeds on sea grass beds and by cropping the grass provide a nursery for numerous species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023