Two Indian turtles facing high risk of extinction added to list of threatened species

In a step forward towards conservation, two Indian turtle species — the red-crowned roofed turtles (Batagur kachuga) and Leith’s soft-shell turtle (Nilssonia leithii) — have been added to list of threatened species.

* Red-crowned roofed turtle is native to India, Nepal and Bangladesh and known to be widely found in the Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins, according to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). At present in India, the National Chambal River Gharial Sanctuary is the only geographic area where the species is found in substantial numbers.

Leith’s soft-shell turtle inhabits rivers and reservoirs mainly in southern peninsular India, in states like Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Its presence is substantial in the Cauvery, Tungabhadra, Ghataprabha, Bhavani, Godavari and Moyar drainages.

Although some of these species are found in protected areas, their habitat is under threat.

Major threats for these turtles and other species are:- 1) increasing loss of habitat due to pollution and 2) unchecked urbanisation. 3) Other reasons for habitat loss include- a) water extraction and b) irrigation, leading to irregular flow of upstream dams and reservoirs.
4) Sand mining and agriculture activities along the Ganga are significantly affecting the sandbars, which are safe nesting areas for the species.
5) Besides, drowning due to illegal fishing nets, poaching and illegal trade further threaten their existence.

The male turtle is beautiful and is in high demand in the domestic and international markets, for Pet trade. The male species is estimated to be sold at 2,000 euros in the international market.

Leith’s soft-shell turtle is endemic to India. There are four species under the genus nilsonia and they are extensively sought in international illegal trade for its high demand in traditional Chinese medicine and soup delicacy.


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