Numaligarh: In an effort by the Nagaon Wildlife Division, Nagaon Shivasthan Temple Committee and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) India, a total of 67 turtles were taken from the pond of Nagaon Amolapatty Shiva Temple and later rehabilitated in the natural habitat of Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuary, Sonitpur.
The turtles comprising of the Indian Flapshell turtle, Peacock softshell turtle, Indian Tent turtle, Brown roofed turtle and Black softshell turtle, were living in a confined pond. Among them, the Indian Flapshell turtle and Peacock softshell turtle are protected under Schedule I of Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The temple has a small water body where the devotees donate turtles due to their religious belief. The temple pond is a small and concrete structure which is unsuitable for turtles.
Prasanna Kalita and Pankaj Chakraborty on behalf of the temple authority informed about the need to relocate the turtles to Prasanta Bordoloi, an eminent conservationist of Assam. The matter was taken up with Ranjith Ram, DFO, Nagaon Wildlife Division, who then initiated the process of involving experts from TSA India who have their regional office in Bishwanath Ghat. A special team comprising Dr. Smarajit Ojah, Honorary Wildlife Warden of Nagaon district, vegetarian Dr. Rupok Kr. Nath, and biologists from TSA India, Dr. Rajeev Basumatary, Dr. Parimal Ch. Ray and Gaurav Bharodia, along with the staff of Nagaon Wildlife Division, started the recovery process from June 25. The whole operation was carried out following proper protocol and under supervision of veterinary doctors of TSA India and was completed on June 29.
Almost all the temple ponds in Assam have endangered turtles and most of them are in a confined and unhygienic condition due to lack of awareness. Religious beliefs and sentiments prevent temple authorities from agreeing to release the turtles into a suitable wild habitat. Such turtles are deprived of laying eggs and hence not contributing to their gene pool. Moreover, often many turtles die in the pond due to polluted water or diseases. In this regard, the example being set by the authorities of the Nagaon Amolapatty Shivasthan Temple must be lauded.