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Indian Red-Crowned Roof Turtle (Batagur kachuga)

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TSA Board Member Visits Project Sites in India

TSA Board Member Lonnie McCaskill dedicates a significant amount of his personal time to serving as mentor to the incredibly hard-working TSA India team. He spent March 8-31, 2014 visiting program sites throughout India with the program's director, Shailendra Singh. This is his trip report. Enjoy!

I arrived in Lucknow on the morning of March 8th. After taking a brief rest, we headed to the Kukrail Gharial Breeding Center for a Uttar Pradesh Forestry Department (FD) training class for the capture and transport of crocodiles. This was the end of a week-long training for the FD that the TSA staff participated in by teaching turtle triage during confiscations, identification and handling. Shailendra Singh (Director, TSA India), Dr. Disha Sharma and I all gave presentations during this annual training of the FD as part of our growing partnership with the department at the request of FDO Dr. Rupak De. After the training, the next day was spent going over all of the animals TSA holds there and looking over some of the areas that have been identified as possible future turtle and tortoise enclosures. The new Laboratory for Aquatic Biology (L.A.B.) looks fantastic and is getting stocked and equipped to be our headquarters for quick assist for confiscations and rescues in the region. It is winter in India now and the Chitra were doing great. There was one that had showed some signs of possible respiratory infection but was improving with advice from Dr. Terry Norton (Turtle Survival Center) and the treatment Disha was providing. It could have possibly been due to stress from overcrowding. Once removed and isolated from the group it began acting more normally.

Kukrail continues to impress me with the potential and possibilities of what could be India’s own Turtle Survival Center. After two years of dismal grant attempts to raise money for the center, the facility and team are stretched to the limits. We have been given the green light by the Chief Wildlife Warden to charge fees for our nature walks and other outreach programs, which could potentially be a money generator, but not without some investment.

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Headstarted Turtles Released in India

IMG_7358TSA India, in cooperation with the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) and the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD), operates a headstart facility for the Red-Crowned Roof Turtle (Batagur kachuga) in Morena known as the Deori Eco-Centre. The headstarting program, which has been in operation for about 9 years, aims to enhance natural recruitment in endangered populations by raising hatchlings in captivity until they reach a size at which their chance of predation is reduced, thereby increasing long-term survival.

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River Terrapin Egg-Laying Season in Full Swing

DSCN1807From Bangladesh to Cambodia,  River Terrapins (Genus Batagur) are laying eggs - and lot of them - both in the wild and captivity. Below is a brief summary of River Terrapin nesting activity in programs managed by the TSA and their partners.

Northern River Terrapin or Sunderban Batagur (B. baska): In Bangladesh, at the captive breeding center at Bhawal National Park, the first nest (19 eggs) was laid March 21, followed by two more nests on March 23, consisting of 22 and 14 eggs respectively. Apparently one of the two females dug up another female's nest while laying her own so there was some breakage and egg loss. Project Coordinator Rupali Ghosh was on hand for the nest digging. This is a joint program of Turtle Survival Alliance, Vienna Zoo, Bangladesh Forest Department and our newest partner, IUCN Bangladesh. There are 14.5 adults in this breeding colony (14 males and five females).

DSCN1853In India, at the B. baska breeding center at Sajnekhali, in West Bengal, TSA India Director Shai Singh reports that two females are emerging every night and making trial digs in the newly created nesting enclosure. Last year 50 total hatchlings emerged from these two Centers and we are hoping for a much better hatch rate this year. More good news: the Forest Department procured an additional adult female (22 kg) from a village pond in the northern Sunderbans, bringing the total number at Sajnekhali to 6.5.32 (six males, five females and 32 unknown).

All total there are now 20 males, 10 females and 55 unsexed juveniles of this rare Batagur in captive centers in Indian and Bangladesh and the conservation outlook is looking much brighter that it was just a few years ago when this species was ranked #4 on the list of the Top 25 World's Most Endangered Turtles.

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World Turtle Day Celebrated in India

Figure_A_optWorld Turtle Day was observed on May 23 at various project sites of the Turtle Survival Alliance’s India program to raise awareness about the diversity and threats to the nation’s non-marine chelonians. TSA has been organising such education and awareness campaigns and events targeting various stakeholders along with its turtle conservation and research projects across the country to celebrate different dates of environment calendar since 2006. One event was held at the Turtle Conservation Centre along National Chambal Sanctuary River in Garhaita village, Etawah.

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Turtles In Trouble

coverClick here  for a PDF version of the full report.

The plight of the planet's tortoises and turtles -- creatures that have roamed the Earth for 220 million years -- has never been greater, according to the newly released report "Turtles in Trouble: Top 25+ Endangered Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles ."  It shows the world's 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles will become extinct in the next few decades without concerted conservation efforts.

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Turtle Nests Protected In India

B_kachuga_male__by_Sheena_KoethSurveys were resumed in late January to assess the status of nesting banks and enumerate associated threats for two endangered species of Batagur in India. After a rapid reconnaissance, two protected riverside hatcheries were established along the Chambal River near Garhaita (lower section, Uttar Pradesh) and Baroli Villages (upper section, Madhya Pradesh) in early February.
 
Every year, TSA in association with Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Forest Departments establishes such hatcheries to protect endangered Batagur kachuga and B. dhongoka nests from natural predation and poaching as well as to collect information on nesting along the Chambal River, possibly the last stronghold of B. kachuga.
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Winterizing Endangered Turtle Facilities in India

Personnel at the Garhaita Turtle Conservation Center have been hard at work winterizing the headstart facilities for endangered turtles, especially Batagur kachuga. (You can read about the "green" headstarting enclosure on page 51 of the 2010 TSA Magazine.) The facility on the Chambal River uses a bio-filtration system which is powered by a solar water GTCC_pond1pump. During the recent upgrade work, 50 fish and three species of water weeds have been added to the tank's biological chambers. These fish will feed on residue and insects, improving water quality. At the same ashutosh_tripathitime, the water weeds will also help to reduce organic load in the ponds.

To improve water oxygenation, three shower heads have been installed to circulate and sprinkle water as it moves from the storage tank to the filtration tank. A new electric and solar powered gate system also allows for increased water rotation between tanks.  

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Indian Workshop is a Success

Group_photo_of_National_Turtle_WorkshopUPDATE: Download the final report from the workshop here .

Recently the Indian Turtle Conservation Program (ITCP), in association with Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and IUCN/SSC Tortoises and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group hosted the “Indian Freshwater Turtle and Tortoises Conservation Priority Areas & Initiatives” workshop and core-group meeting. The ITCP is a joint countrywide initiative of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and San Diego Zoo Global to protect threatened freshwater turtles and tortoises and their habitats. The workshop was co-sponsored by the TSA, WWF-Canada, Cleveland Zoological Society, San Diego Zoo Global and Seksaria Sugar Factory.

The workshop took place October 22-24, 2010 in Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh. The main objectives of the meeting were to review the implementation of the 2005 TSA/MCBT “Conservation Action Plan for Indian Endangered Turtles and Tortoises” and to discuss and prioritize important turtle areas for conservation action across India, while reviewing their potential to support new programs. Participants also were tasked with identifying competent local partners and collaborators for key turtle conservation initiatives.

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New Education Centre Opens in India

conservation_centre_optPatricia Koval (TSA Board of Directors and WWF-Canada Chair) recently inaugurated the newly built John Thorbjarnarson Memorial Chambal Conservation Centre in Etawah, India. John was a highly regarded crocodilian biologist, who also made his mark in chelonian conservation. He passed away on February 14, leaving a great void in the conservation community.

The new educational facility is located at the Turtle Conservation Centre, along the National Chambal (River) Sanctuary. The landmark event was held on on April 22, to celebrate both World Earth Day and the establishment day of Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF).

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Chambal River Sanctuary Program Protects Two Species of Sympatric Batagur

Large batagurid turtles of the genus Batagur are probably the most threatened freshwater turtles in India.  Their populations have been immensely reduced due to multiple factors such as poaching, accidental drowning in fishing gear, and habitat destruction.  They have all but disappeared from most of the Ganges river system, one of the world’s largest watersheds. 

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