85 rescued turtles to be reintroduced to the wild in UP
Last year, as part of a state-wide effort to care for rescued turtles (which were being rehabilitated by various rescue organisations), these turtles were shifted from several locations to the reptile transit
Mumbai A total of 85 protected turtles, which were rescued from the illegal wildlife trade over the last two to three years in Thane, Pune and Nashik districts, on Friday reached the Gharial Rescue Centre in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, where they will be acclimated before being reintroduced into the wild after two weeks.
The specimens include endangered species such as the black spotted pond turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii), the Indian roof turtle (Pangshura tecta), tricarinate hill turtle (Melanochelys tricarinata), and Indian tent turtles. Last year, as part of a state-wide effort to care for rescued turtles (which were being rehabilitated by various rescue organisations), these turtles were shifted from several locations to the reptile transit unit at the RESQ Wildlife Treatment Transit Centre in Pune.
“They were put through quarantine and screened for infections. They were grouped based on species and placed in suitable housing conditions where they slowly transitioned off their captive diets. They were exposed to different types of weather conditions and the ones who survived were deemed fit for repatriation,” RESQ Wildlife TTC said in a statement on Friday.
All of the rehabilitated species are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and their natural population distribution is scattered across the Ganga river basin in north India, where they will be reintroduced. However, their chances of survival in the wild are not optimistic. “Finding suitable habitats in protected areas is one of the biggest challenges of reintroduction. With our observations over the years, we can say that about 60% of the turtles survive in the wild,” said Dr Shailendra Singh, director of Turtle Survival Alliance, India.
Experts involved in the reintroduction exercise, however, say they are taking all precautions to ensure that the turtles have maximum possible chance of survival in the wild, including quarantining the specimens and screening them for illnesses which may hinder their ability to adapt in the wild.
“I feel it is better to give them all a second shot at the wild. The fittest will survive, compared to 100% of them spending their lifetimes in captivity,” said Neha Panchamia, founder and president of RESQ TTC, Pune, which has rescued and rehabilitated over 200 turtles in the past year.
“Turtles are one of the most vulnerable groups for illegal trade, which is fueled by the demand for them as pets. In Maharashtra, several batches have been seized by our officers while being trafficked. The initiative to start the Reptile Transit Unit in Pune was done with the goal of sending these animals back to their natural habitat eventually. With so much effort being put into this by the RESQ team, we liaise with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department who accepted them for release,” said Sunil Limaye, Chief Wildlife Warden and PCCF (WL) Maharashtra.