Religious Group Helped Nurture Turtles, Who Were Declared To Be Extinct, Back To Life

Religious Group Helped Nurture Turtles, Who Were Declared To Be Extinct, Back To Life

The black softshell turtle was declared extinct in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2002.

The black softshell species of turtle, which had been declared extinct in the wild 17 years ago, reintroduced itself, reports the Independent. The whole thing happened after the caretakers of a Hindu temple found a few of these species of freshwater turtles (Nilssonia nigricans) flourishing in a nearby pond. Instead of overlooking it the people at the Hayagriva Madhav Temple in Assam decided to give them another shot at life.



Initially, the species was believed to be eradicated from the northeastern region of Assam due to their loss of habitat and the over-exploitation of them as a food source. As a result in 2002, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared these creatures "extinct in the wild." The religious residents in the area have been taking good care of dozens of turtles because they feel these creatures are the reincarnation if the Hindu deity Vishnu. 


Their religious belief that those turtles were a form of their God encouraged them to take care of the species and keep them protected. A devout conservative, Jayaditya Purkayastha, who works for a conservation group called Good Earth informed AFP: "There are plenty of turtles in the temple pond." He further added, "The population of the turtle in Assam has gone down by a great extent. So we thought we needed to intervene and do something to save the species from extinction."


Mr. Purkayastha has been working alongside the temple authorities to assist with the breeding of the turtles as well. Together they launched a turtle breeding program in the effort to reintroduce the species back in the wild. After the female lays her eggs in the sandy banks of the pond, he collects them and provides the newly-laid eggs some warmth by placing them in an incubator until they hatch. With the help of the residents in the area, Purkayastha was able to release 16 of the black softshell turtles in a wildlife sanctuary nearby for the first time in January 2019. 



Until now the partnered group has already bred 40 turtles in the area and send them to the Guwahati zoo where they are further reared. "This is a milestone in Assam’s turtle conservation history, and it would not have been possible without the interest shown by the temple authorities in the artificial breeding program," said Mr. Purkayastha. The team is now working towards expanding its existing breeding program to 18 other ponds situated around the temple. They hope to offer sanctuary to this endangered species of turtle.



Once upon a time, there was an abundance of freshwater turtles in Assam. Unfortunately, they were a very popular delicacy in the area. The increasing demand for this particular protein led to the destruction of their habitat. After these species were declared extinct in the wild in 2002, people were shocked to chance upon a few of them swimming near an ancient temple's pond. This discovery gave conservationists the hope that the species was not lost after all! Since then they have been working towards converting 18 other surrounding ponds into sanctuaries for breeding rare species of turtles. 



One of the caretakers of the pond situated at Hayagriva Madhav, Pranab Malakar, informed news outlets how the turtles are dependent on people for their food consumption. He also added that they are respected in the area and are feed bread for their sustenance. "No one harms them here as they are incarnations of Lord Vishnu. I was born and grew up here. We have been seeing the turtles since our childhood," he said. 


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