Kolkata: A bale of a rare species of Northern River Terrapin or Sunderbans Batagur turtles, which is considered critically endangered across the globe, will be released in the Sunderbans in mid-2014.
As part of its conservation programme, the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR) has been successful in its efforts in hatching the Batagur Turtles at the Sajnekhali Mangroves Interpretation Centre in the Sunderbans.
"In 2012, 33 Batagur turtles were hatched in Sajnekhali. In 2013, we hatched 56 Batagurs. These turtles will be released in the wild two years from the day of their hatching," STR field director Soumitra Dasgupta told PTI.
"So, five to seven months from now in the middle of 2014, we will release 15-20 turtles from the batch that was hatched in 2012. But before that we have to find out a suitable habitat for them," he said.
Asked why only 15-20 turtles would be released, Dasgupta said, "We need to see whether these turtles are able find a suitable habitat to exist."
The Batagur turtles, which are found in Sunderbans forests of India, Bangladesh and parts of Myanmar, have been declared critically-endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the oldest and largest global environmental organization of the world.
"Though these Batagur turtles belong to Sunderbans but they are on the verge of extinction. So we have to find out the right spot for their habitat," he said.
Human activity and global warming are considered to be the main reasons behind their way to extinction.
Dasgupta said STR officials would begin a survey early next year in the entire Indian part of Sunderbans to find out the right habitat where these turtles can survive.
"This location hunting for the release of the turtles is going to be a tough job as it is a critically endangered species. It will take some time. Depending on this it will be decided when the next batch of turtles, whose conservation started this year, will be released," said Dasgupta.
According to forest officials, the Batagur turtles in India have undergone a sharp decline in last few decades due to human consumption.
The conservation effort has been welcomed by Zoological Survey Of India, which felt that it would save the critically endangered species from becoming extinct.
"Whenever we talk about Sunderbans, we talk of Royal Bengal Tigers only. But apart from tigers, there are many species and animals which are endangered. This step will definitely help in bringing up the number of Batagur turtles in the region," ZSI director K Venkatraman said.