Conservation of Fresh water turtles of Mahanadi, India

According to IUCN reports, 6 species of fresh water turtles of Orissa are endangered due to poaching. Biswajit and his team are working to expand studies completed by the Wildlife Society of Orissa to assess the condition and population size of Orissa’s remaining turtles. With support from an Associate Award, the team will extend their studies to the rest of the Mahanadi main river and its major tributaries.

The main threats to the turtles will be identified and specifically the various ways in which turtle are poached will be assessed. Gangs of poachers from outside the state have been observed camping by waterways and stringing up lines with multiple hooks to catch turtles, whilst others lure turtles with dead cattle carcasses on the river banks. The project is involving the local fishing community in remaining vigilant against poaching and door to door campaigns and local meetings are helping engage local people to and seek their active support in protecting turtles and their eggs.

The project is supported by a strong educational programme and works to train fishermen how to release accidentally caught turtles from nets and hooks without injuring them. Central to the project is expansion of a poaching database from which an understanding of trade routes is being gained to inform local forest officials about the illegal turtle trade.

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