Dr. Shailendra Singh Honored with the 16th Annual Behler Turtle Conservation Award

For Immediate Release


JORDAN GRAY, Turtle Survival Alliance, (912) 659-0978, jgray@turtlesurvival.org

• Dr. Shailendra Singh of India honored as 16th Annual Behler Turtle Conservation Award recipient.
• The Dr. Singh-led TSA India Program is now the most comprehensive of TSA’s country programs, positively impacting more than half of India’s native turtle and tortoise species.

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA — The Turtle Survival Alliance, IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservancy, and Turtle Conservation Fund today announced Dr. Shailendra (Shai) Singh of India as the recipient of the 16th Annual Behler Turtle Conservation Award. This “Nobel Prize” of turtle conservation honors excellence, outstanding contributions, and leadership in the international turtle conservation and biology communities.

In 2008, Shai was named to lead the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) / Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) India turtle program. In the 13 years since, he has expanded the TSA India Program to include research, conservation, assurance colony building, community engagement, and outreach as well as developing alternative livelihoods, working to convert poachers, and creating wildlife trafficking response programs. Working in four priority Indian turtle conservation areas, the program now protects 18 of India’s 29 turtle and tortoise species, several of them regarded as Critically Endangered. For some species, such as the Red-crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga), Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska), and Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans), Dr. Singh and his team’s efforts are the last hope for their wild survival in the country.

“In just 15 years, there are few individuals that have made such monumental contributions to turtle conservation as Shailendra Singh. He and his team’s efforts now span much of India, impacting well over half of its turtle and tortoise species, many of which are among the most endangered turtles on the planet,” said Rick Hudson, President of Turtle Survival Alliance. “While it may take decades to witness the full impact of Shai’s commitment, his name and legacy have become synonymous with Indian turtle conservation.”

16th Annual Behler Turtle Conservation Award honoree Dr. Shailendra Singh holds a female Red-crowned Roofed Turtle. Photo: Arunima Singh

Dr. Singh’s rapid rise to the forefront of Indian turtle conservation began in 2005 when a program in its infancy—then a collaboration between TSA and Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology—hired the recent Master of Science graduate to perform research on crocodilians and turtles. There, Shai began the Chambal River turtle conservation program, which focused on restoring the dwindling population of Red-crowned Roofed Turtle in its last remaining stronghold, the National Chambal Sanctuary. Building on this program, Shai went on to receive his PhD, studying the reproductive ecology of the Red-crowned and Three-striped (Batagur dhongoka) roofed turtles in the Chambal. In recognition of his accomplishments, in 2008, he became the first Indian to be named a Conservation Hero by the Disney Conservation Fund. Dr. Singh was named Director of the TSA India Program in the same year.

“I am greatly honored and humbled to receive the Behler Turtle Conservation Award. Never did I imagine that a fascination with a small Indian Tent Turtle in my youth would evolve to leading the most comprehensive country program of the Turtle Survival Alliance,” said Shailendra Singh, Director of TSA India Program. “None of what I have accomplished though would be possible without the dedication and support of staff and volunteers, professional and peer advisors, and generous donors and collaborators, past and present. This award embodies all that they have given toward ensuring a wild future for turtles in India."

The Behler Turtle Conservation Award was established in 2006 to recognize outstanding achievements, contributions, and leadership excellence in international turtle conservation and biology. The award honors and commemorates the memory and legacy of the late John L. Behler, former Curator of Herpetology at the Bronx Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society, New York. The annual awardee is determined through a broad-based nomination and selection process overseen by the Behler Award Committee. The Behler Turtle Conservation Award carries an honorarium of $5000 and is widely considered the “Nobel Prize” of turtle conservation and biology.

The Behler Turtle Conservation Award is co-presented by the Turtle Survival Alliance, IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservancy, and the Turtle Conservation Fund, and is co-sponsored by Re:wild, Wildlife Conservation Society, Chelonian Research Foundation, Surprise Spring Foundation, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, George Meyer and Maria Semple, Brett Stearns, and Deborah Behler.

Learn more about Dr. Shailendra Singh by reading the Behler Turtle Conservation Award feature in the 2021 edition of TSA's annual publication, Turtle Survival, when you become a Member today.


About Turtle Survival Alliance

With a vision of zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century and a mission to transform passion for turtles into effective conservation action, the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) was formed in 2001 in response to rampant and unsustainable collection of Asian turtles supplying Chinese markets. Since its inception the TSA, a with 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has become recognized as a global force for turtle conservation, capable of taking swift and decisive action on behalf of critically endangered turtles and tortoises. TSA employs a three-pronged approach to turtle conservation: 1) restoring populations in the wild where possible; 2) securing species in captivity through assurance colonies; and 3) building capacity to restore, secure and conserve species within their range countries. In addition to the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina, TSA manages collaborative turtle conservation programs in 15 diversity hotspots around the world. For more information, visit: www.turtlesurvival.org; http://www.facebook.com/turtlesurvival; www.instagram.com/turtlesurvival; @turtlesurvival on Twitter.