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Nine species of tortoise under extinction threat in city pond

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  17 Jun 2017 12:00 AM GMT

Jurpukhuri needs government help to keep fau and flora alive

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, June 16: Around 450 tortoises belonging to as many as nine species are in a harsh competition for food and space in an Ahom-era pond in the city! All the nine species are endangered ones. So far, there is no move from the powers that be to save these endangered reptiles!

The pond in question is one of the two conjoint (paired) ponds (jur pukhuris) being owned by the committee of Ugratara Temple at Uzan Bazar in the city. Ugratara Temple is a pilgrimage centre in the city. The two ponds do add to the ambience as a pilgrimage centre and a tourist spot. The ponds were dug under the order of Ahom queen, Rani Fuleswari. One of the two ponds which is way from the temple is owned by the government. However, the one lying in the side of the temple is being looked after by the temple committee.

The pond owned by the temple committee has faus like fish, tortoise and swan. The fish in the pond is captured after every four years and the amount that comes is spent for the development of the temple. “The tortoises in the pond are facing population boom. They belong to as many as nine species, all endangered ones,” said Utpal Bhattacharya, an employee of the temple. Tortoise population in the pond, according to Bhattachrya, is – around 200 individuals of the bigger ones, 150 of the medium ones and around 100 of the smaller ones. As many as 19 species of tortoise are found in Assam, and 12 of the species are reared in various temple ponds in the State. Temple ponds are safe haven for all these endangered tortoise species. If these endangered species are not teken care of in temple ponds, they have no place to survive as tortoise makes one of the most sought-after meats.

“We’re facing problems to feed the around 450 tortoises. Apart from us, visiting devotees also provide food to the reptiles, but that’s not enough. Three years back we handed over 20-25 tortoises to the State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden in the city. The 450 tortoises are in a harsh competition for food and space. The area of the pond isn’t enough for the survival of such a large population of tortoise,” Bhattacharya said, and added: “No help from the government is forthcoming. If the government comes with a positive gesture, the endangered species can be preserved in the State for the posterity. Now an extinction threat continues to lurk on them.”

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