Nearly 300 Poached Turtles Return Home in India

For Immediate Release

CONTACT:     

JORDAN GRAY, Turtle Survival Alliance, (912) 659-0978, jgray@turtlesurvival.org

• 266 Indian Roofed Turtles (Pangshura tecta) and Pink-ringed Tent Turtles (Pangshura tentoria circumdata) seized from poachers in Telangana returned to home state of Uttar Pradesh
• First interstate repatriation of freshwater turtles for the state of Telangana and fourth such in Indian history
• TSA India Program and collaborating government departments coordinated air transfer of confiscated turtles via Air India
• Turtles to be released to their native habitat in Gomti River following quarantine

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA—Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) on Monday announced the return of 266 native Indian freshwater turtles to their home state of Uttar Pradesh, India. This release represents the first interstate repatriation of turtles from the State of Telangana and a continued increase in law enforcement actions protecting India’s wild turtles, and epitomizes public-private collaboration to re-wild animals seized from illegal trafficking.

To facilitate return of these aquatic turtles to their origin in the wild, TSA’s India Program partnered with Nehru Zoological Park, Telangana Forest Department (TFD), Uttar Pradesh Forest Department (UPFD), and Air India. The 266 Indian Roofed Turtles (Pangshura tecta) and Pink-ringed Tent Turtles (Pangshura tentoria circumdata) were housed at the Nehru Zoological Park in Telangana since August, where they remained until their transfer to Uttar Pradesh was finalized following court orders and legal proceedings. On Sunday, September 19, 2021, TSA India Program partner Air India flew the turtles from Hyderabad to Lucknow in specially designed cargo containers.

The Indian Roofed Turtle is listed as a Schedule 1 species under the Indian Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, giving them absolute protection from collection and trade. Photo: Shailendra Singh

“India has an incredible diversity of turtles and tortoises and many of them are desirable for illegal domestic and international pet and food trades. The theft of these animals from the wild for personal profit not only steals a valuable new generation of turtles, but is a theft from the people and natural heritage of India itself. All species, whether ranked Critically Endangered or Least Concern are of value to our country’s heritage and its wild places,” said Dr. Shailendra Singh, Director of TSA India Program.

Following an eight-hour flight, the turtles arrived in their home state of Uttar Pradesh, where they were further transported to the joint Uttar Pradesh Forest Department/TSA India Program Laboratory for Aquatic Biology at the Kukrail Gharial and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. There they will be cared for and assessed for symptoms of disease for 30 days. Following quarantine, in October, the turtles will be released into a protected area of the Gomti River from which they came.

Representatives of TSA India Program, Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, and Air India with the precious cargo of 266 Indian Roofed and Indian Tent turtles. Photo: Pradeep Ray

“India is among the most biologically rich countries in the world for turtles and tortoises. But, with an ever-growing population in the country and a global market that seeks out attractive or rare species, this diversity is a target. Despite strict laws protecting many of their species, rampant illegal collection continues,” said Rick Hudson, President of Turtle Survival Alliance. “However, this seizure and interstate repatriation is yet another recent example that demonstrates the increasing commitment of government agencies to enforce their laws and collaborate with conservationists to return wildlife to their rightful place.”

In August 2021, two citizens of Hyderabad were apprehended by law enforcement officers of Telangana Forest Department for attempting to sell the protected turtles to aquarium shops. The accused confessed to poaching the turtles from the Gomti River near Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Following their seizure, the turtles were assigned to the Nehru Zoological Park for care until they could be repatriated. This, the first such interstate repatriation for the state of Telangana, sets a precedent for the state for repatriating confiscated wildlife to their origins when known.

In August 2021, two citizens of Hyderabad were apprehended by law enforcement officers of Telangana Forest Department for attempting to sell protected turtles, these Ping-ringed Tent Turtles among them. Photo: Shailendra Singh

India is third in the world in terms of freshwater turtle and tortoise diversity with 41 native species and subspecies. More than half are listed as Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Neither the Indian Roofed Turtle nor Indian Tent Turtle are regarded as Threatened; however, due to their decorative coloration and relatively small size, they are commonly sought-after species for the pet trade. International trade in these species is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)—the former an Appendix I species and the latter, Appendix II. Furthermore, the Indian Roofed Turtle is listed as a Schedule 1 species under the Indian Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, giving them absolute protection from collection and trade.

The return of the 266 Indian Roofed and Tent turtles to their rightful place in the wild was made possible through the assistance of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests-UPFD Mr. Pawan Kumar Sharma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests-TFD Ms. Sobha Royyuru, Nehru Zoological Park Curator Ms. VVL Subhardra Devi, Chief Conservator of Forests-Lucknow Circle Mr. RK Singh, Division Forest Officer-Avadh Mr. Ravi Kumar Singh, Mr. Imran Siddiqui, Mr. Sujeeth Thalwar, Sub Divisional Officer-Avadh Mr. Alok Pandey, Conservator of Forests-Endangered Project Mr. Manoj Sonkar, Wildlife Warden-Endangered Project Mr. Abu Arshad Khan, and Air India.

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About Turtle Survival Alliance

With a vision of zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century and a mission to transform passion for turtles into effective conservation action, the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) was formed in 2001 in response to rampant and unsustainable collection of Asian turtles supplying Chinese markets. Since its inception the TSA, a with 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has become recognized as a global force for turtle conservation, capable of taking swift and decisive action on behalf of critically endangered turtles and tortoises. TSA employs a three-pronged approach to turtle conservation: 1) restoring populations in the wild where possible; 2) securing species in captivity through assurance colonies; and 3) building capacity to restore, secure and conserve species within their range countries. In addition to the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina, TSA manages collaborative turtle conservation programs in 15 diversity hotspots around the world. For more information, visit: www.turtlesurvival.org; http://www.facebook.com/turtlesurvival; www.instagram.com/turtlesurvival; @turtlesurvival on Twitter.

3 Comments

  1. Innis on September 23, 2021 at 9:58 pm

    The beauty of these species… amazing.

  2. Judith Mitchell on September 24, 2021 at 12:19 am

    I am so heartened and impressed by the effectiveness of your TSA India Program!

  3. Andrew Fuyarchuk on September 26, 2021 at 8:36 am

    This story from India is a model of success for everyone. It is encouraging and inspirational. Congratulations to the India TSA team.

    Wild turtles in Ontario have likewise been targeted by the illegal market. Conservationists, municipal bylaw officers, and law enforcement should also increase their degree of cooperation. The criminals are well organized, and we need to work together to stop them. TSA is facilitating cooperation and leading in conservation.

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