GUWAHATI, Aug 7 - In a boost to turtle conservation, 46 eggs of four species of turtles � black soft-shell turtle, Indian soft-shell turtle, peacock soft-shell turtle and Indian flap-shell turtle � have hatched in the artificial incubation centre created for turtles at Hayagriv Madhav Temple of Hajo. There are still some 20 eggs getting incubated.
The artificial incubation initiative was started by an NGO named Help Earth with support of the temple management and district administration last year, which was successful in breeding an extinct-in-wild species, the black soft-shell turtle. Fourteen hatchlings were reared for eight months and released back to the pond of the shrine.
However, in order to be really meaningful, it is imperative that a majority of the hatchlings are released in the wild so that there is a healthy turtle population in their natural habitats outside the temple premises. Moreover, the temple pond is already overpopulated with turtles.
�The whole idea behind the initiative is to increase the wild population of these rare species. These ponds have turtles only because devotees release them here, and devotees actually in some way brought these turtles from the wild. So, if there are no turtles in the wild, after a period of time there shall be no turtle in these ponds as well. Having large concentrations of turtles in these small ponds also expose them to the risk of infectious diseases, which can wipe out the entire population,� conservationist Jayaditya Purkayastha told The Assam Tribune.
Purkayastha while thanking the temple management of Hayagriv Madhav, the Kamrup district administration and Pranab Malakar, the caretaker of eggs, said in the greater interest of turtle conservation, the hatchlings should be allowed to be released into the wild. Assam, the most species-rich state in India in terms of turtle diversity, is home to 20 species of turtles and tortoises out of 29 present in India. Unfortunately, most of these species are threatened with extinction.
�Among all major vertebrate groups, turtles are one of the most threatened animals. Of the total of 356 species occurring throughout the globe, 148 (60.4 per cent) are officially listed as Threatened by IUCN criteria... Due to habitat destruction, degradation of water-bodies, sand mining, turtle trade, etc., the existence of turtle is at stake,� he said.