Endangered River Terrapins Nesting in Bangladesh

by Rick Hudson 

Throughout Asia, nesting season is just concluding for river terrapins (genus Batagur), where five of the six known species struggle to survive. All species have been reduced to remnants of their former numbers, and intensive recovery programs are being spearheaded to ensure their survival. In Bangladesh, one of the world’s rarest turtles, the Sundarbans river terrapin (Batagur baska), is having another good year. At facilities in both India and Bangladesh, thanks to a successful bi-national conservation program, rapidly growing captive populations are strong indications that this rare turtle may well be on the road to recovery.

From the Bhawal National Park facility near Dhaka, Bangladesh, facility manager A.G.J. Morshed reported that the first female B. baska nested on 20 April, laying 15 eggs. The second nest of 21 eggs was found the next day, and by April 1 five of the six females had nested, laying a total of 101 eggs, of which 89 were set for incubation (some eggs were broken during nesting and one nest was partially predated by a monitor lizard). Shortly thereafter, the sixth female also nested. All nests have been moved to a caged protected area on the beach for incubation, and temperatures are being carefully monitored in an effort to produce more females than in previous years.

This collaborative management program between the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), Vienna Zoo, and IUCN made tremendous strides in 2013 and 2014 due to strong support from the Columbus Zoo and SOS - Save Our Species. In both India and Bangladesh, improvements have been made to captive breeding and rearing facilities, and survey efforts have been expanded to locate wild nesting populations. The SOS grant to the TSA supports Batagur recovery programs for three species in Cambodia, India and Bangladesh.