Turtles in India Get Head Start
Since its inception in 2005, the Indian Turtle Conservation Program, a joint endeavor of the Turtle Survival Alliance, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, has expanded greatly to better aid in the recovery India’s imperiled turtles. Originally, a single species conservation project, this program has now become a larger multi-species program.
Currently we are conducting natural history research, in-situ headstarting, community-based education programming, and poacher rehabilitation activities on five of India’s most endangered turtles. By addressing various social and economic issues of the communities associated with India’s diverse turtle fauna, we have been able make great strides in halting the downward spiral of many turtle populations throughout the region. Our program is now one of the most socially integrated turtle conservation program in Asia.
The project team started implementing the Conservation Action Plan recommendations for the endangered red-crowned roof turtle Batagur kachuga and the three-striped roofed turtle Batagur dhongoka in the National Chambal (River) Sanctuary in the states of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Madhya Pradesh (MP) in 2006.
The red-crowned roof turtle conservation program was chosen as the flagship project for this region as well as the country, as the turtle is very charismatic and it was felt there was a high probability of the project quickly and successfully securing a viable population of the turtles, all while serving as a model for other turtle conservation programs throughout India and abroad. With fewer than 400 adult females remaining in the wild (based on yearly nesting surveys), decisive conservation actions were clearly warranted.
Currently, we are rearing over 1,500 B. kachuga of various age groups (from 0-5 years) in two headstarting facilities along the Chambal River. We will begin our movement and survivorship studies through sonic-telemetry with headstarted B. kachuga turtles early in 2011.
With partial support from the Turtle Conservation Fund, we were able to complete the green headstarting facility to rear endangered turtles -especially B. kachuga - at the Garhaita Turtle Conservation Centre along the lower Chambal River. This facility is close to 6.5 feet (2 meters) deep with floating and stationary basking platforms and the entire structure is covered with a predator proof iron mesh. We also added a four-chambered bio-filtration unit powered by a solar water pump.
An education and interpretation facility was developed with generous support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and the Beneficia Foundation. We can now accommodate over one hundred children/community members for education events.
In addition, a live animal aquatic exhibit will be added along with interactive animal models. Though the prime objective of this facility is to cater to the turtle conservation awareness needs of the local/riparian community, it will also facilitate the conservation (education, awareness, and training) initiatives involving other regional threatened aquatic animals, ecosystems and protected areas, issues, and target groups.