GUWAHATI: World Turtle Day, 2022 was jointly organized by Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden and Turtle Survival Alliance India today, in association with the Assam Forest Department, Assam State Biodiversity Board, Ugratara Temple Committee and Help Earth.
World Turtle Day was first observed in 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue, and is celebrated to raise awareness among people to protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) is a former IUCN taskforce constituted in 2001.
A Turtle Watch was organized in Joorphukhuri with support from Ugratara Temple Committee at 8 am. Around 45 citizens, consisting of people from the science community and college students took part in the programme. Sounika Karmakar, Programme Officer, Assam, TSA India, welcomed everyone and discussed the importance of celebrating World Turtle Day. Children's Biodiversity Forum distributed saplings to the participants of the walk.
Uditya Borkataki, Researcher, TSA India, discussed about the threats to turtles and conservation efforts for their protection. He also discussed invasive species like Red-eared Slider in Ugratara Temple Pond. Dr Jayaditya Purkayastha, founder of Help Earth and presently working as Consultant, Assam State Biodiversity Board, also interacted with the students and discussed how Red-eared Slider's increasing population is affecting the native species of turtles by competing for resources. This species has gained popularity as a pet in the past few years and if its release into the wild is not controlled then in future it may be as much of a menace as water hyacinth.
Sushmita Kar, Project Officer, Nagaland, TSA India, interacted with the students on various research opportunities in Assam on turtles. A signature campaign was initiated where people pledged to protect turtles. After this, a walk to spot different turtle species was conducted around Joorpukhuri.
A turtle awareness meet was jointly organized by Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden and Turtle Survival Alliance. It started with a signature campaign where all signatories tied a green ribbon as a supporter of turtle conservation. The zoo keepers enacted a street play titled Bringing back the Black Softshell Turtle for the zoo visitors. The awareness meet was attended by students of various colleges and universities.
Dr Priyasa Saikia, Assistant Conservator of Forests, Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden, in her inaugural speech spoke about the importance of turtles and the work that needs to be done for their conservation.
Dr Rajeev Basumatary, Professor, DR College, Golaghat and Regional Advisor, Turtle Survival Alliance India, gave a presentation on turtles and tortoises of Northeast India. He discussed how out of 29 species of freshwater turtles found in India, 22 are found in this region. He made the audience aware that as per IUCN Red List 2021, nine species are endangered and five are critically endangered. He discussed in detail the threats and illegal turtle trade.
Sushmita Kar, Project Officer, Nagaland, TSA, gave a presentation on the Black Softshell Vision Plan 2030 under which a MoU has been signed between the Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden, Kamrup district administration, Turtle Survival Alliance Foundation India, Help Earth and Shree Hayagriva Madhab Devalaya Parichalana Samitee. Under the aegis of this vision plan, the nests of the critically endangered Black Softshell Turtle will be protected and 1,000 Black Softshell Turtles will be released back into the wild by 2030.
The keepers who work with turtles namely, Rajani Deka, Prabin Haloi, Mochindra Bhumiz, Surjo Kumar Das, Nitul Rabha and Pranab Malakar were felicitated as Turtle Warriors by TSA India and Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden.
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