TSA India celebrated World Turtle Day in a big way! Events were organized across various TSA conservation projects sites to mark the occasion and to raise awareness about turtles. The TSA conducted a “Turtle Safari,” in which 25 participants from different parts of the country traveled to the Chambal River to visit the field programs conducted by TSA. This opportunity was made available via a contest sponsored by Turtle Limited, a leading men’s apparel manufacturing company and TSA India partner. The winners traveled to Garhaita, a project location along lower Chambal where TSA is conducting a conservation program targeting critically endangered Red-crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga). Here, they visited the turtle hatchery and learned about nest protection and participated in the release of turtles along the Chambal River. Later, two turtle documentaries were screened at the TSA Chambal Community Centre, followed by a variety of other interactive activities.
The next day, the group was taken to the Kukrail Gharial and Turtle Centre in Lucknow, where they learned about various turtle species and conservation efforts through the Kukrail Guided Nature Tour (KGNT). Here the group was joined by local forest department staff and media. The event concluded with a press conference attended by 30 media personnel.
Additionally, “We are in peril” (an education program) was conducted for 50 village children at the Garhaita Turtle Survival Centre. The program provides conservation education using demonstrations, games and skits. Later, the children were given a guided tour of the Red-crowned Roof Turtle (Batagur kachuga) headstarting facilities, where they learned about different species and the roles of turtles in Chambal ecosystem. To conclude the event, children made a human chain in form of a turtle to pledge for turtle conservation.
In April, Lucknow, India experienced a massive thunderstorm. As a result, many trees were uprooted at the Turtle and Gharial Breeding Centre at Kukrail. Most of the trees fell in open areas and ponds which house breeding gharials and crocodiles, which will require extensive cleanup. However, the most significant damage was done to Red-Crowned Roof Turtle (Batagur kachuga) enclosure.
A very large, old tree fell during the storm and caused more than half of the steel and iron structure to collapse onto the pond below. This pond holds 32 turtles which have just about reached maturity and the TSA India team hopes to see them breeding soon. Thankfully, none of the animals were harmed.
The staff is working hard to clear the fallen tree, but the damage to the enclosure is the greater concern. The cost of these unanticipated repairs could be significant, but there is no choice but to rebuild as quickly as possible. With the integrity of the enclosure compromised, the turtles could be exposed to small predators such as jackals, mongooses or dogs.
Donations to the India program to help cover these unforeseen expenses would be greatly appreciated. Donations can be made online anytime by clicking here. Thank you for your support!
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.
TSA 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.
From 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).
In 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.
World 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.
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.
Surveys 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.
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 pump. 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 time, 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.
UPDATE: 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.