Another banner year for the Sundarbans River Terrapin

by Rick Hudson 

For the third straight year, the survival prospects for one of the world's most endangered freshwater turtles, the Sundarbans River Terrapin (Batagur baska), have improved substantially.

Recently we reported on a flurry of nesting activity at the breeding center at Bhawal National Park in Bangladesh, where six females laid clutches of eggs, including a new female acquired late in 2013. Facility manager A.G. J. Morshed and caretaker Nurul are happy to report that a total of 48 hatchlings have emerged from those six clutches. Though this number is slightly down from last year's total, it is still a significant achievement in that we now have the genetic contribution – 20 hatchlings – of a new female bloodline. Special efforts were again made to carefully control incubation temperatures so that both sexes are hatched. Special thanks are extended to Rupali Ghosh, Peter Praschag, Toni Weissenbacher and Brian Horne for their careful monitoring of the situation, both remotely and on site.

Meanwhile in India, Shailendra Singh reports that 55 hatchling B. baska have emerged from three nests at the Sajnekhali facility in West Bengal. This brings the total production for 2014 to 103 hatchlings. Since 2012, a total of 270 hatchlings have been produced from both of these programs, a testament to the hard work of dedicated staff in India and Bangladesh, who often work under trying and adverse conditions.

In Bangladesh, the Project Batagur baska recovery program is jointly managed by IUCN Bangladesh, Vienna Zoo and TSA. In India, the West Bengal Forest Department works hand in hand with TSA India who provide technical oversight and training. Both of these programs have seen major advances in 2013 – 2014 with financial support from SOS – Save Our Species. New breeding and juvenile rearing facilities have been built, and field surveys bring us closer to identifying new nesting populations or potential release sites. For their ongoing support, we are also grateful to the Columbus Zoo for this program's remarkable success.