Recently, black softshells hatchlings were released into the Haduk Beel (wetland) of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam.
The rare turtle species are being bred in the ponds of various temples and shrines of the State.
Black soft shell turtle
It is a freshwater turtle that is found in India and Bangladesh.
Of the 29 species of freshwater turtles identified in India, 20 are found in Assam, and temple ponds are known to house a dozen species.
It is omnivorous, with a diet ranging from aquatic plants to aquatic insects and carrion. Indian black turtles may sometimes be seen to aggregate alongside the carcass of a large dead animal.
The black softshell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) figures in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as “extinct in the wild” since 2002.
Consumption of turtle meat and eggs, silt mining, encroachment of wetlands and change in flooding pattern have had a disastrous impact on the State’s turtle population.
Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is situated in the flood plains of river Brahmaputra in the district of Morigaon.
It has the second highest concentration of rhinos in Assam after Kaziranga National Park.
It also serves as a birder’s heaven in winters with thousands of waterfowls thronging the wetlands. Other animals found in the region are, leopard, wild boar, barking deer, wild buffalo, etc.
Turtles occupy a unique position within the food web. They consume an assortment of prey, including puffer fish, crustaceans, sponges, tunicates, sea grasses, and algae. The unusual life cycle of the animal plays a vital role in transportation of nutrients from the highly productive marine habitats such as sea-grass beds to energy-poor habitats like sandy beaches. This helps reverse the usual flow of nutrients from land to sea.
They further help to maintain healthy fish stocks in the water bodies.
Unhatched eggs, eggshells and fluids help foster decomposes and create much needed fertilizer.
As turtle populations in general decline, so does their ability to play a vital role in maintaining the health of the world’s aquatic ecosystems.