Rescued turtles flown back home to Lucknow for rehabilitation
MEERUT For the second time in the state’s history of repatriating rescued wildlife, 266 rescued Indian Tent Turtles (Pangshura tentoria circumdata) and Indian Roofed Turtles (Pangshura tecta) were airlifted from Hyderabad to Lucknow on Sunday, through the joint effort of UP forest department and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA).
These turtles were confiscated and two offenders detained in Hyderabad in early August. The arrested poachers had confessed to have poached these turtles from river Gomti near Lucknow.
The recovered turtles were temporarily housed in Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad for safe custody till the legal proceedings got over.
Pawan Kumar Sharma, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) of Uttar Pradesh, said that seeking technical assistance of TSA experts, the Telangana forest department was contacted to hand over the turtles to the state so that they could be rehabilitated in the wild without any delay and maximum survival could be ensured.
Sharma then directed the chief conservator of forests( Awadh region) RK Singh and divisional forest officer (DFO) Lucknow Ravi Kumar Singh to complete the required paper work between both states, seeking assistance of TSA experts of which further coordinated with Wildlife Conservation Society- India Easternghat.
Besides legal proceedings, a rapid health check-up, standard packaging and translocation of turtles were executed under technical supervision of TSA experts and they were airlifted to Lucknow through Air India, which has been the TSA’s trusted partner for translocating endangered wildlife for over 7 years.
“Technical experts kept monitoring the health of the turtles during translocation,” shared Sharma.
After a journey of 8 hours via Delhi, the turtles were received by Alok Pandey, sub divisional officer, Lucknow, range officer, city and Arunima Singh, biologist of TSA in Lucknow.
DFO Ravi Singh shared that the turtles’ health would be assessed and they would be quarantined for 29 days at UPFD/TSA Laboratory for Aquatic Biology at Kukrail Gharial Centre before being rehabilitated at safer locations in the Gomti within Lucknow district in mid October.
Dr Shailendra Singh, director, TSA India, Lucknow said that these species of turtles were poached to cater to the demand of illegal pet trade as they looked very pretty and people kept them in aquariums.
Both species are sympatric, found in the Gomti river and associated wetlands. One prefers flowing water and the other stagnant pools near and within the river.
Arunima Singh said that P tecta belonged to schedule 1 of India Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
To note, the first such repatriation by the UP forest department and TSA was in 2015 when both organisations flew over 500 Spotted Pond Turtles from Maharastra for rehabilitation in the wild.
Lauding the efforts of all officials, staff of the forest department and TSA experts, Sharma said that “such bold decisions and coordinated efforts between states will set good examples to timely repatriate rescued wildlife where origin is known.”