Nature and the Environment
in the News

Source:  The Times of India
Date: April 25, 2008

Crocodile Bank breeds rare, painted roof turtle
25 Apr 2008, 0602 hrs IST,Priya M Menon,TNN

CHENNAI: Two eggs lay side by side in the incubator, a bright bulb glowing above. A tiny head and two flippers emerged from one, bright eyes regarding the world with curiosity. As the camera clicked away the baby turtle emerged completely, frantically pushing its way out of the shell. In another container close by, two other baby turtles that hatched on Wednesday, the previous night, wandered around.

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) has taken another important step forward in turtle conservation with the captive breeding of another batch of the highly-endangered Indian painted roof turtle (kachuga kachuga). The painted roof turtle was first bred in captivity at MCBT in May 2004.

The painted roof turtle is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. A river turtle, it was earlier found in a few areas in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and West Bengal. But with the destruction of their habitat due to sand mining, pollution and overharvesting, their numbers have dwindled. Today, the Chambal area is the last remaining habitat of this species.

"We probably have just 200 to 300 nesting females in UP and MP. We don?t know how many we have in Rajasthan," says Brian D Horne of CRES, the San Diego Zoo?s Centre for Conservation and Research of Endangered Species. He is in Chennai to help with the captive breeding programme. The species is very slow breeding, with females breeding only after they are 15 years old.

MCBT's captive breeding programme of this species began years ago. ?We got the original breeding stock on loan from the Kukrail Reptile Conservation Centre of the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department," says Payal Narain, projects coordinator, MCBT. The programme is supported by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and British Chelonia Group (BCG).

Last year, 19 painted roof turtles about two to three years old were handed over to the Uttar Pradesh forest department to be released into the wild. This year, eight eggs have hatched at the MCBT so far. "But none have bred in the only other captive breeding centre in Kukrail so far this year," says Payal.

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