What’s the news?
- The West Bengal forest department is planning to release another batch of batagur baska, a critically endangered freshwater turtle species, tagged with GPS transmitters in Sundarbans this year to understand its survival and dispersal patterns.
- Ten batagur baskas – seven females and three males- were fitted with GPS devices and released in a river in Sundarbans mangrove forest on January 19 after being reared in a pond in Sajnekhali area in South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal.
News in detail
- A joint exploration by a team of Turtle Survival Alliance India Programme and Sundarban Tiger Reserve in 2008 found a cohort of eight males, three females, and one juvenile batagur baska in a pond in Sajnekhali.
- The baska population “declined sharply due to unsustainable harvesting” and the species now teeters on the brink of functional extinction.
- The GPS tagging will enable real-time monitoring of the turtles and help get information about their reproduction and the way they adapt to the environment.
- This will also help “understand survival and dispersal patterns of the freshwater turtles” and plan large scale release programmes in the future and will further provide basic ecological data on the conservation requirements.
About Batagur Baska
- Batagur Baska also known as the “Northern River Terrapin” is one of Asia’s largest freshwater and brackishwater turtles native to Southeast Asia.
- Its distribution is currently restricted to the Sundarbans in India and Bangladesh.
- It is entirely aquatic, inhabiting estuaries and tidal portions of large rivers but with terrestrial nest sites, that is, sandbars and riverbanks.
- The terrapin’s immense population decline has resulted from extensive exploitation of its flesh and eggs, including habitat alteration and destruction that have degraded the turtle’s nesting areas and feeding habitat.
- Captive breeding is currently the only feasible intervention to re-establish a wild population.
- Protection Status: IUCN Red List- Critically Endangered CITES: Appendix I; Wildlife Protection Act (1972): Schedule I.