Massive turtle conservation project in Bengal on the anvil

West Bengal has partnered with a non-governmental organization to carry out a crucial project for the conservation of turtle species found in the state, officials said.

The initiative, which will be undertaken in association with the Department of Forestry, follows the success of the conservation project for Batagur Baska, one of the world’s most endangered turtle species.

“It will be an extension of the Batagur Baska project and we are preparing an action plan report,” Shailendra Singh, turtle expert at the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), told PTI. Of the 20 species of freshwater turtles found in West Bengal, the TSA will carry out a detailed survey on the status and distribution of the species, Singh said.

At least seven of them are critically endangered, including the red-topped turtle, the three-banded roofed turtle and the elongated turtle.

The report will contain necessary steps for the conservation of Assam roof turtles, which are commonly found in Jaldapara and Gorumara region, the scientist said.

The status and distribution of the leaf turtle, found in the Terai region, is unknown. A survey will also be conducted of the turtles, Singh said.

“The new initiative will contribute to the conservation of other tortoise species found in West Bengal,” said Justin Jones, deputy director of Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.

The report will be submitted to the Forest Department, Singh said, adding that the TSA signed a memorandum of understanding with him on May 23.

The TSA and the department have a recovery plan for Batagur Baska through 2030. A similar vision plan exists for the black softshell turtle.

The conservation project for the northern river turtle or Batagur baska is considered a success since the population of the species has increased to 400 in 2022 against 12 ten years ago.

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