Endangered turtles play fast and free with curbs

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Animals in the wild know no international boundaries and it came as a kind of surprise and challenge to experts and forestry officials who installed GPS transmitters on the Northern Terrapin River in Indian Sundarbans.

In just six weeks after release, at least three of the ten individuals of the critically endangered Northern River Terrapin ( Batagur baska) have traveled hundreds of kilometers and are now in Bangladesh.

Shailendra Singh, director of Turtle Survival Alliance India, which has played an important role in the conservation and release of turtles, said the animals have traveled hundreds of kilometers and in the case of a turtle which is currently in Bangladesh , the dispersion was about 400 km.

“There are three turtles that entered Bangladesh. In the case of maximum dispersal, the animal descended from the release site in the Indian Sundarbans, crossed the sea and the Bangladesh Sundarbans, and is now in its outlying area,” Dr Singh said.

Of the three turtles in Bangladesh, one was caught by Bangladeshi fishermen who removed the animal’s transmitter.

“Fortunately there was a phone number on the transmitter and somehow the fishermen contacted the TSA office and we approached the Sundarban Tiger Reserve officials. We let’s try to bring the turtle back to India,” Dr Singh said.

Of the ten animals released with the transmitter, the signals came from six, four from India and two from Bangladesh. Experts pointed out that five of the animals descended from the Sundarbans release site and moved south.

Justin Jones, deputy director of the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, said the turtle was rescued by the Bangladesh Forest Department.

“We are trying to bring the animal back but at present the animal is in a facility under the Khulna Forest Department. Bangladesh also has a facility for Batagur Baskaand the injured animal is at the facility,” Jones said.

Stressing the need to release the critically endangered tortoises, the head of Sundarban Tiger Reserve said the aim of the initiative was to determine the habitat, breeding pattern and movement of the tiger. species.

The population of the Northern River Terrapin, a freshwater turtle, had reached critical limits about 15 years ago when experts and forestry officials were unsure of the existence of a surviving population of turtles. ‘pure water. in the Sundarbans.

In 2008, a joint exploration of swampy mangroves and tidal creeks by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Sundarban Tiger Reserve (STR) located a cohort of eight males, three females and a juvenile in a central pond. interpretation of Sajnekhali. Over the past 14 years, conservation breeding of the species, listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, has been successful with nearly 12 adults and nearly 370 juveniles from the species.

The species’ conservation breeding program came full circle on January 19, 2022, when ten subadults Batagur Baska bred for more than nine years, have been reintroduced into the wild by experts from TSA and STR.

With data emerging on the species’ movement, experts and forestry officials are excited about the possibility of uncovering new details about the species.

TSA India director Shailendra Singh said the batteries fitted with the GPS transmitter can work for 18 months and it will be interesting to watch the movement of the turtles during the monsoons.

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