Personnel at the Garhaita Turtle Conservation Center have been hard at work winterizing the headstart facilities for endangered turtles, especially Batagur kachuga. (You can read about the "green" headstarting enclosure on page 51 of the 2010 TSA Magazine.) The facility on the Chambal River uses a bio-filtration system which is powered by a solar water pump. During the recent upgrade work, 50 fish and three species of water weeds have been added to the tank's biological chambers. These fish will feed on residue and insects, improving water quality. At the same time, the water weeds will also help to reduce organic load in the ponds.
To improve water oxygenation, three shower heads have been installed to circulate and sprinkle water as it moves from the storage tank to the filtration tank. A new electric and solar powered gate system also allows for increased water rotation between tanks.
Additional basking platforms were placed in the center of the facility pool, to provide not only additional basking areas but also to create additional hide spaces beneath the platforms for hatchlings and yearlings. Two different types were installed, one suspended over the pool with steel chain and one floated by affixing airtight plastic bottles to the underside of the platform.
In preparation for cooler temperatures, water heaters have also been installed. In some areas of the facility, colored tarps are being used to cover the ponds during nighttime temperature dips or to create "tarp tents" over the water that can be heated with electric lamps.
These facility improvements were reviewed by Sheena Koeth (Vet tech, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo) and veterinarian Dr. Gowri Mallapur, who provided their feedback during a recent site visit. The Garhaita Turtle Conservation Center currently houses more than 200 juvenile B. kachuga and we are confident that these improvements will keep them healthy through the winter and into 2011.