By April end, the state’s sole taxidermy centre at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) will preserve the dead body of an endangered Indian narrow-headed soft shell turtle (scientific name: Chitra Indica).
Taxidermy is the art of stuffing dead bodies of animals to preserve them for display.
The dead body of the carnivorous reptile, which is listed as an endangered species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list (IUCN), was brought to the SGNP from Daund, Pune, in February. The reptile weighed 250kg, was 6.3 feet long and was approximately 140 years old.
Last October, fishermen from Daund found the carcass of the reptile stuck in a water pipeline near Bhima River. Realising the value of the rare species, the Pune forest department asked taxidermist Dr Santosh Gaikwad to prepare the turtle’s taxidermy model to be displayed at Pune’s Nature Information Centre. “We skinned the turtle of its flesh and muscles and degreased (removed fat and muscles) it with preservatives to prevent it from rotting. We then prepared the artificial skeleton upon which the skin was mounted, “ said Dr Gaikwad, associate professor, Goregaon Veterinary Hospital.
The turtle’s primary shell is tough while the outer shell is soft and it uses its narrow and long neck to catch prey and hence it is called narrow headed soft-shelled turtle. It is found on the banks of the Indus, Ganga and Godavari. “This species eats fish and dead carcasses and camouflages itself in muddy ponds. There are few research studies on this species,” said V Deepak, research fellow, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.