India Celebrates World Turtle Day

by Heather Lowe 

TSA India celebrated World Turtle Day in a big way! Events were organized across various TSA conservation projects sites to mark the occasion and to raise awareness about turtles. The TSA conducted a “Turtle Safari,” in which 25 participants from different parts of the country traveled to the Chambal River to visit the field programs conducted by TSA. This opportunity was made available via a contest sponsored by Turtle Limited, a leading men’s apparel manufacturing company and TSA India partner. The winners traveled to Garhaita, a project location along lower Chambal where TSA is conducting a conservation program targeting critically endangered Red-crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga). Here, they visited the turtle hatchery and learned about nest protection and participated in the release of turtles along the Chambal River. Later, two turtle documentaries were screened at the TSA Chambal Community Centre, followed by a variety of other interactive activities.

The next day, the group was taken to the Kukrail Gharial and Turtle Centre in Lucknow, where they learned about various turtle species and conservation efforts through the Kukrail Guided Nature Tour (KGNT). Here the group was joined by local forest department staff and media. The event concluded with a press conference attended by 30 media personnel.

Additionally, “We are in peril” (an education program) was conducted for 50 village children at the Garhaita Turtle Survival Centre. The program provides conservation education using demonstrations, games and skits. Later, the children were given a guided tour of the Red-crowned Roof Turtle (Batagur kachuga) headstarting facilities, where they learned about different species and the roles of turtles in Chambal ecosystem. To conclude the event, children made a human chain in form of a turtle to pledge for turtle conservation.

Another awareness event was hosted at the Nagshankar temple in Assam, where the TSA is engaged in a project to conserve the endangered Black-softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) and  the Assam Roofed Turtle (Pangshura sylhetensis). This event was attended by more than 50 representatives including temple committee representatives, local forest department officers, community members from Nagshankar village, and village school teachers. Participants were briefed by TSA representatives about our ongoing work to conserve these two species in partnership with the religious communities in Assam. After the presentation, the participants were given tours of the turtle pond, hatchery and nursery areas. This event provided a great platform for networking with various stakeholders about turtle conservation in the area.

Lastly, the TSA India team organized a tour for 35 students, accompanied by eight teachers from seven different higher secondary riverside schools of Bahraich district, of the Kukrail Gharial Rehabilitation Centre, Lucknow Zoological Garden and Regional Science City, Lucknow. These students were past winners of various education activities organized by TSA in riverside schools as part of fishermen community outreach programs. The aim of this excursion was to treat to these students, many of whom come from poverty, to a day filled with nature and science in a fun and engaging manner. The event included a turtle focused show-and-tell, audio-visual sessions and a walk on the nature trail along the Kukrail stream within the forest reserve adjacent to the centre.

In total, the day's activities impacted more than 500 people of various ages and backgrounds and was widely covered by both electronic and print media. The events were made possible by our program partners - Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), Turtle Limited, Save Our Species (SOS), Phoenix Zoo, Auckland Zoo, Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Endangered Species Project and National Chambal Sanctuary Project Divisions of Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, Nagshankar Temple Committee, Baharich District Education Department. Team TSA India is very thankful to Dr Ruapk De, Mr Sanjay Srivastava, Mr Anil Kumar Patel, Mr VB Srivastava, Mr Gurmeet Singh, Mr Vikram Duggal, Mr MP Singh, Mr Suresh Chand Rajput, Mr Suresh Pal Singh, Mr Bahadur, Mr Bhagwati Mr Rajeev Baruah for their support. Events were organized or conducted by various TSA field teams consisting of Shailendra Singh, Bhasker Dixit, Disha Sharma, Ashutosh Tripathi, Saurav Gawan, Arunima Singh, Chaitra Baliga, Akash Singh, Raja Mandal, Vipul Maurya and Lisha Hazary.