Arakan Forest Turtle
Bangladesh is home to 30 types of turtle and tortoise. Twenty-six (87%) of these are considered threatened with extinction.
Chittagong Hill Tracts
Located in the most remote corner of southeastern Bangladesh, the Chittagong Hill Tracts encompass 13,295 square kilometers (5,133 sq. mi) of rugged montane old-growth forest and are home to at least 30 globally-important species of flora and fauna including 7 types of tortoise and freshwater turtle. There, Turtle Survival Alliance and our partners have established ten Indigenous Community Conservation Areas. These conservation agreements with local villages protect critical habitat for at least 30 threatened species including tortoises and freshwater turtles, tigers, pangolins, bears, and more. As an important step to involving the indigenous people in the protection of these community conservation areas and the fauna that inhabit them, hunters have been reformed and trained as 'parabiologists.' These parabiologists are in charge of monitoring and reporting any threats to their land as well as collecting research data. As traditional ways of making a livelihood in the Chittagong Hill Tracts have shifted to modern, often unsustainable practices, the Creative Conservation Alliance has been working with indigenous leaders for over six years to provide their villages with sustainable, alternative livelihoods.
In Bhawal National Park, the creation of the CCA/Bangladesh Forest Department/TSA turtle breeding center was an important step for the conservation of the seven threatened tortoise and freshwater turtle species residing in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Not only does the facility ensure that populations of these species will survive in captivity within the country, but will also maintain breeding populations for intended progeny release. In 2021, the program commenced its goal of repopulating the hills with turtles that once roamed freely there by releasing 10 captive bred and reared Asian Giant Tortoises affixed with radio transmitters into a community managed forest. Ninety percent of the reintroduced tortoises survived the first year indicating the initial success of the reintroduction effort.
In addition, CCA engages with the Shrine of Bayazid Bostami in Chattogram to increase the population of Black Softshell Turtles at the Shrine, with the goal of one-day rewilding this Critically Endangered species to Bangladesh. The collaborative program relocates eggs deposited in nests along the Shrine ponds’ peripheries to incubators at the temple. To date, hundreds of hatchlings have been successfully hatched and added to the captive population.
TSA supports assurance colonies for the Northern River Terrapin at the Karamjal Forest Station in the Sundarbans, and within Bhawal National Park outside of the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. With so few wild animals remaining in the Sundarbans, these assurance colonies act as breeding centers and a genetic bank. The combined 30 adult specimens have demonstrated notable reproductive output over the last several years, providing annual recruitment for the captive population. The combined captive population of Northern River Terrapin in Bangladesh now numbers more than 450. These captive-hatched terrapins are the last hope for the preservation of their species in Bangladesh.
To better understand movement patterns and habitat utilization of the few remaining wild Northern River Terrapins, surplus male specimens, acquired from illegal market sales, are affixed with satellite transmitters. Monitoring the survivability of these transmittered turtles is problematic in that standard radio-telemetry is fairly ineffective in the complex matrix of deep riverine environments of the Sundarbans. This requires more advanced tracking technology to be utilized, which can be expensive (sonic telemetry) or cost prohibitive (satellite telemetry). Such technology to adequately monitor these terrapins is necessary however if we are to truly understand their movements and outlook for survival.
Creative Conservation Alliance, Bangladesh Forest Department, Prokriti O Jibon Foundation, Bitopi Group, Zoo Vienna, Turtle Island, IUCN-Bangladesh, Austrian Zoo Organisation (OZO), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Herpetologie und Terrarienkunde (DGHT), Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP), and the Society of the Friends of Schönbrunn Zoo
Creative Conservation Alliance Project Team
Shahriar Caesar Rahman, Chief Operating Officer
Fahim Zaman, Project Coordinator
Sourav Chakma, Research Officer
Etal Changma, Field Supervisor
Komol Guala, Animal Keeper
Madhab Chasha, Animal Keeper
Bijoy Chakma, Animal Keeper
Menrua Mro, Parabiologist
Langraw Mro, Parabiologist
Menlong Mro, Parabiologist