Rare Turtles Rescued in Bangladesh

By Shahriar Caesar Rahman and Jordan Gray

To conserve Bangladesh's tortoises and freshwater turtles, our partner, the Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA) is aligning in situ (in their place in nature) and ex situ (outside their place in nature) conservation approaches. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a rugged and remote region of southeastern Bangladesh, the CCA recruits and trains native woodsmen in conservation practices and techniques. Using their unparalleled knowledge of the landscape, these dedicated parabiologists scour the hills, looking for populations of rare turtles and tortoises, assisting in their data collection and protection.

Biologists of the CCA and Forest Department display the 4 species of endangered turtles and tortoises recovered from hunters by parabiologists.

Recently, parabiologists rescued a number of highly threatened turtles and tortoises from the possession of hunters. Four species of endangered and critically endangered turtles were recovered: Arakan Forest Turtle (Heosemys depressa), Asian Black Giant Tortoise (Manouria emys phayrei), Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata), and Keeled Box Turtle (Cuora mouhotii).

From left to right: Elongated Tortoise, Arakan Forest Turtle, Asian Black Giant Tortoise, and Keeled Box Turtle. Note the drill holes on some of the turtles' shells, used by hunters to tether them.

With no real protection for the animals in the area, returning them to their native forest was not deemed safe for their survival. Likewise, releasing them into unfamiliar territory is not considered wise practice. To this end, a collaborative decision was made with the Bangladesh Forest Department to bring the animals into the safe confines of the CCA's Turtle Conservation Center (TCC) in Bhawal National Park. Here, in naturalistic enclosures, they will coalesce with existing populations of their species and, with luck, breed with others of their kind. It is the CCA's intent to return offspring produced from the TCC’s breeding colonies to the Chittagong Hills, strategically releasing them into protected forests known as Indigenous Community Conservation Areas.

CCA biologists take measurement data from an Arakan Forest Turtle.

The TSA and CCA are grateful to the Bangladesh Forest Department for their support of this project and the relocation of the threatened turtles to the Turtle Conservation Center.

To read about the CCA's innovative approach to turtle conservation in the Chittagong Hills, become a TSA Member, and receive a copy of our annual magazine, Turtle Survival, straight to your door!