Black Softshell Turtle Conservation


    In News

    Recently, Hayagriva Madhava Temple Committee, Assam has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with two NGOs namely Turtle Survival Alliance India and Help Earth for long-term conservation of Black Softshell turtle.

    • The temple, revered by both Hindus and Buddhists, is at Hajo, about 30 km northwest of Guwahati and harbours various threatened species of turtles.

    About the MoU

    • This multi-stakeholder association also involves the State Zoo cum Botanical Garden and the Kamrup district administration.
    • The conservation pact aims to restock the wild with viable, self-sufficient and genetically pure threatened turtle populations in the region.
    • A Vision Document 2030 was also launched which sets in motion a plan to have an ecologically viable population of 1000 adult black softshell turtles in Assam by 2030.
    • It will offer assistance for the required improvement of husbandry of turtles kept in temple ponds and further recovery efforts for the long-term survival and existence of the turtles.
    • It will spread mass awareness on the conservation issues of all species of turtles in the region while working on threats and opportunities to strengthen the turtle population in Assam.
    • A proposal was also mooted for retaining the hatchlings from eastern Assam at the Nature Discovery Centre at Biswanath Ghat run by Turtle Survival Alliance India for proper upkeep and monitoring before they are released in the wild.

    About Black Softshell Turtle

    • Scientific Name: Nilssonia nigricans
    • Features
      • It is a rare freshwater species of turtles.
      • It is also called the Bostami turtle or Mazari.
      • Their shell is light and flexible which allows them to move easily in open waters and muddy lakes. It also allows them to move faster on land than other turtles.
    • Habitat
      • It is confined only to ponds of temples in northeastern India (Assam mainly) and Bangladesh.
        • Until sightings along the Brahmaputra River’s drainage in Assam, it was thought to beextinct in the wild’.
    • Threats
      • It is hunted for its meat and cartilage which is traded in regional and international markets.
      • Also, silt mining, wetland encroachment and changing flooding patterns also contribute to reducing populations.
      • Major threats for the semi-captive subpopulations are the possible health risk from fungal infestation and the inbreeding depression.
      • Since the turtles are conserved in temple ponds only based on religious grounds, many biological requirements for building a sustainable wild population have since long been overlooked.
    • Turtle Conservation Efforts
      • Observation of the World Sea Turtle Day on 16th June every year.
        • The celebrations highlight the importance of sea turtles in the marine system and aim to save the aquatic species from extinction. 
      • Sea Turtle Conservation Programme
        • It includes locating turtle nesting sites, excavation and relocation of eggs to the hatchery site. 
      • India is a signatory to the Indian Ocean Sea Turtle Agreement (IOSEA) of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), a United Nations backed initiative. 
        • The main objective of the policy is to secure the turtle nesting habitats in the country and rope in the local communities for their safeguard.
      • National Marine Turtle Action Plan
        • It promotes inter-sectoral action for conservation and guides improved coordination amongst the government, civil society and all relevant stakeholders on turtle accidents and conservation.
      • Development of KURMA Application by the Indian Turtle Conservation Action Network (ITCAN)
        • The app has a built-in digital field guide covering 29 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises of India.
    • Protection Status
      • IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered.
      • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule IV, however, it should be in Schedule I.
      • CITES: Appendix I.

    (Image Courtesy: TH)

    Source: TH