Workshop 26th ? 29th October 2006
Centre for Herpetology/Madras Crocodile Bank


India is home to 28 species (34 taxa including subspecies) of freshwater turtles and tortoises. However, the ever-increasing human pressure on turtle habitats has not only decimated turtle populations and caused a loss of species diversity but certain species have become severely threatened or seriously endangered.

As part of the MCBT?s ongoing freshwater turtle in situ and ex situ conservation program, and subsequent to a request from a grassroots NGO in the north east India, a workshop was initiated at the MCBT premises. Approval was obtained from the donor agency, TSA, to utilize funds from the Fresh Water Turtles Conservation Project for the training workshop since one of the objectives of the project is to conduct yearly training workshops for frontline departmental staff and young researchers for species identification, captive breeding and husbandry, veterinary practices, field data collection, survey and population assessment techniques and wetland management.
The structure of the training workshop had already been tested at in 2004 at a similar workshop at MCBT, and the TSA sponsored workshop for the ?Conservation and Action Plan for Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises? held at Kukrail, UP in 2005. The main topics covered were Reasons for Conservation, Diversity, Distribution and Threats Identification Criteria, Survey Techniques, Data Collection Checklist, Population Assessment, Sampling Methods including the legal implications, Status Assessment for Conservation Action Planning and Captive Husbandry. At the end of the workshop, feedback forms were filled in by the participants. A list with contact details of all resource personnel and participants for correspondence was also circulated via email.
The Resource Personnel for the workshop were: Dr. R.K. Sharma (National Chambal Sanctuary, M.P. Forest Department, Morena), Mr. D. Basu (UP Forest Department), Mr. B. C. Choudhry (Wildlife Institute of India), Dr. Karthik Vasudevan (Wildlife Institute of India), and the Director (Centre For Herpetology/ Madras Crocodile Bank Trust). The participants were V. Deepak (Research scholar, Wildlife institute of India), Saurav Maity and Trideb Mahapatra (Dept. of Fisheries, Govt of West Bengal), Suresh Pal Singh (UP Forest Department) Abhijit Das and Biswajit Barua (Research scholars and conservationists from Aaranyak, Assam), Kulendra Chandra Das (Research Scholar, Assam University) Smita Sundarmurthy (researcher), J. Subramanium (Research Scholar, Pondicherry University), Shailendra Singh and Ashutosh Tripathi (MCBT), Nikhil Whitaker (MCBT), M. Munnsamy (MCBT) and Chandan Ri (MCBT Volunteer). All MCBT staff were the key support staff. 
The MCBT/CFH, with its major successes in captive breeding and field expertise, laboratory facilities, species collection and the library, proved to be a goldmine of information for the participants. The in-house collection of nine species of fresh water turtles and tortoises made the hands-on training in species identification practical and informative. MCBT?s field researchers and staff were able to share their experiences and information with the participants from other parts of India. The sessions were all interactive. The practical session on incubation, lab techniques, tagging and tracking was demonstrated by the MCBT Director.
Besides establishing the start of an extensive network of turtle experts and grass-root level up-coming researchers, the workshop participants from West Bengal and Assam added value, as MCBT is in the process of initiating a breeding program for the critically endangered Assam roofed turtle and the Asian giant tortoise, as part of the conservation action plan for fresh water turtles. The participants from Assam have the potential to be MCBT?s partners in conservation efforts like the Gharial conservation programme in the North East. The publishing of a tried and tested fresh water turtle conservation training manual in Hindi and English, as one of the outcomes of this workshop, is being discussed with the resource personal and TSA. The workshop was highly successful, and greatly appreciated by all participants and resource personnel have confirmed the need for similar training programmes to be conducted annually.

H V. Andrews & Payal Narain