Chennai to Chambal,
captive-bred turtles head for their home

Indian Express - New Delhi, India
Monday January 29, 2007

<http://www.indianexpress.com/story/21338.html>

Jaya Menon
Posted online: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 0000 hrs

Hatchlings of endangered painted-roofed turtle, native to Ganga-Brahmaputra, to be released into the wild

CHENNAI, JANUARY 19: Packed in three wooden crates lined with wet gunny, 26 hatchlings of the painted roofed turtle, bred for the first time in captivity at the Madras Crocodile Bank, are headed home to the Chambal river.

The crates will be loaded on the Lucknow Express leaving Chennai at 5 a.m. on Saturday and reach Lucknow early on Monday. From there, they will be taken to the Gharial Rehabilitation Centre, Kukrail, which will release them into the Chambal, their original habitat.

Experts say this is the first time the painted roofed turtle (Katchuga katchuga) has been bred in captivity. Also of captive-bred hatchlings being released into the wild.

?This is a milestone in the ten-year Freshwater Turtle & Tortoise Captive Breeding & Headstarting Project in partnership with the Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh forest departments,? said Harry Andrews, director of the Madras Crocodile Bank.

The initiative, funded by the Turtle Survival Alliance, began in 2001, with two male and two females. It was only in April 2004 that the first clutch of 19 eggs was hatched successfully. The second clutch, of seven eggs, was hatched in June 2005.

The hatchlings were nurtured, fed on fruit, aquatic weeds, leafy plants. Experts recently decided the turtles could be released into the wild.

The little-known painted roofed turtle is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, like the tiger. Its habitat is the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system.

Breeding males have blue-black heads, a broad red patch on the forehead, two yellow stripes on the sides of the head, and six red stripes on a cream-coloured neck. Females grow in length to up to 56 cm, males about 30-35cm.

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