Assam is home to 20 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises, out of 29 species present in India. Recently, about 70 hatchlings of the Black Softshell and Indian Softshell turtles, bred in the ponds of two temples in Assam, have been released in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.
According to Tejas Mariswamy, Guwahati Zoo, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), the turtles were bred in Hayagriva Madhava Temple situated in Hajo and Ugratara Temple in Guwahati, and were nurtured at conservation facility at Assam State Zoo. ‘Unfortunately, 70 per cent of these species of turtles are threatened with extinction. It is a matter of immense joy and pride that this year we released 70 hatchlings Black Softshell turtle and Indian Softshell turtle, in Pobitora WLS on Monday,’ he said.
‘One has to appreciate the Dolois (chief priests) of Ugratara and Hayagriv Madhab temples for backing the conservation programme, and Pranab Malakar, the caretaker of the turtles at the temples besides the Forest Department’s role in the captive breeding.’
The wild restocking of the two turtle species was done under a joint programme of the management committees of two temples—Ugratara in Guwahati and Hayagriv Madhav in Hajo about 35 km north-west—the Assam Forest Department and two NGOs specializing in the conservation of reptiles.
This was a joint effort of Assam Forest Department, Hayagriva Madhava Temple Management Committee, Ugratara Temple Management, Turtle Survival Alliance and Help Earth.