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State to go for scientific breeding of Northern river terrapin

60-cm-long turtle enlisted as critically-endangered on Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list

Kolkata: The state Forest department is setting up assurance colonies at a few places in the Sunderbans for scientific breeding of the Northern river terrapin (Batagur Baska). Batagur Baska is only bred at a centre in Sajnekhali under Sunderban Tiger Reserve (STR).

"The breeding of Batagur Baska at a single destination has its share of risk. The present population of the endangered animal is more than 300. If one or two animals get affected by any kind of communicable disease then it may spread and it could prove fatal for the rest of the animals.

"We have to keep them safe and secured. We are coming up with assurance colonies at Netidhopani, Haldibari and Sonakhali for a more scientific kind of breeding,"

said Vinod Kumar Yadav, member secretary of West Bengal Zoo Authority.

Some time ago, forest officials found that some of the species were affected by herpes. According to a senior official in the Forest department, because of widespread killing of the animal for its meat and damage of its habitat Batagur Baska, the 60-cm-long turtle, has now become endangered in Sunderbans and has been listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on its red list of threatened species.

STR, with the help of Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, took the initiative to save these endangered animals. The captive conservation breeding of the Batagur Baska, whose presence in the wild in Bengal and Odisha had declined to undetectable levels a decade ago, have witnessed good results particularly from 2012.

Batagur Baska is the world's second most endangered turtle. Yangtze (Rafetus Swinhoei), the giant soft-shell turtle, is considered the most endangered freshwater turtle. Of six large fresh water turtles of the genus Batagur, three are found in India. Batagur Kachuga (red-crowned roofed turtle) and Batagur Dhongoka (three-striped roofed turtle) are found in the tributaries of the Ganga such as Chambal.

Northern river terrapin is omnivorous that consume waterside plants and small animals such as clams. These species prefer freshwater habitats and moves to brackish river mouths or estuaries in the breeding season (December–March) and return after laying their eggs.

The species is currently found in Bangladesh (in the Sunderbans), Cambodia, India (parts- West Bengal and Odisha), Indonesia and Malaysia. It is regionally extinct in Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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