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Giving turtles a fighting chance

Abhishek Law | Updated on May 28, 2014 Published on May 28, 2014

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Apparel maker Turtle goes the extra mile to conserve a rapidly declining species of reptiles

At night, when jackals and monitor lizards around the Chambal ravines in Garaita village turn active, Shailendra Singh and his team of conservationists are at work.

This remote village in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh is one of the few places in India where the red-crowned roofed turtle, called batagur kachuga or sal by locals nest.

Colossal challenge

“Once thriving across the Gangetic drainage basin, the critically endangered species is now found only in the Chambal, a tributary of the Yamuna,” Shailendra Singh, country manager, Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), told Business Line.

“Some 500-odd turtles of three varieties are left in the Chambal and, these include juveniles,” Singh says, underling the importance of the conservation project taken up with financial assistance from apparel-maker Turtle Ltd.

As part of its corporate social responsibility, the company had earlier sponsored the Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to help protect nesting of Olive Ridley (turtles) in Odisha and Gujarat. In 2013, the company tied up with TSA for conservation of the endangered riverine varieties, in Uttar Pradesh.

“We spend between ₹15 lakh and ₹20 lakh annually towards turtle conservation programmes. Apart from aligning with the TSA, we carry out awareness programmes,” said Amit Ladsaria, Founding Director of the company.

Endangered Species

There are 33 turtle species in India, of which 28 are fresh water ones. Twelve, including the red-crowned roofed turtle, are considered as “endangered or critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In UP, apart from sal, TSA is working on two other species batagur dhongoka or dor and chitra indica.

“Apart from natural predators like lizards and jackals, human interference is a big threat. These reptiles are killed for their meat, as well as for aphrodisiacs and traditional medicines in China,” Singh says.

A turtle can lay anywhere between nine to 35 eggs during a single nesting. However, only two per cent of those eggs actually make it to adulthood. Village communities have also been formed across 50-odd villages (along the Chambal in UP) to create awareness about the amphibian and its importance in the ecosystem.

Saving grace

It is too early to talk of results though, Singh points out. In UP, the conservation programme is on for eight years. Results become evident after a decade. “As of now, rough estimates suggest that there has been a 60 per cent increase in turtle population in parts of the river,” he adds.

Published on May 28, 2014
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