‘On the Search for Assam’s Endangered Black Softshell Turtle’

The Black soft-shell turtle is among the world’s most endangered and rarest of the rare turtle species of world. These turtles are endemic to Northeast India and Bangladesh.

Found nowhere else in the world, the last of this critically endangered species is left in Assam. Luckily, there are some temple ponds wherein these numbered turtles sustain, albeit in a very pathetic condition. They are fed with non-natural food in stinking water where they are forced to live a very confined life.

In India, this species has been declared ‘extinct in wild’ by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) but in the past few years some have claimed to have seen the black softshell turtle.

These are all unauthenticated sightings.

Unfortunately, there are some illegal markets that are running in northeast India which sell turtle meat on a large basis at a huge cost, sometimes Rs 2000 per kg. Selling and consuming turtle meat is illegal under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Our reports to WCCB (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau) in New Delhi bore fruit and helped shut down the illegal flesh market.

On a mission to rescue the Black soft-shell turtle.

In collaboration with the international organisation TSA (Turtle Survival Alliance), I am on a mission to save this black softshell turtle. We have been searching for this turtle in the mighty Brahmaputra river – which like searching a pin from an ocean – for many months. We were lucky to find 3 individuals of this species in the river after many difficulties and disappointments.

The species is almost impossible to find but our findings indicate that this species is still somewhere, unknown to humans.

We are also saving the eggs of the last individuals of the species, artificially incubating them and releasing the babies in the river back to restock the lost population.

We were lucky to find 3 individuals of this species in the river.

A large part of our initiative is to save turtles that are struggling for their life for years in temple ponds, waiting to be released. We are rescuing and releasing them back to the wild as well.

On Turtle Day 2020, it is our resolve to create more awareness among the local people of Assam to conserve this rare species.

(The author is a PhD scholar from the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Delhi. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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