Nagshankar

Turtle Island establishes nesting beaches for the Critically Endangered Temple Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans)

The Temple or Black Softshell Turtle is still listed as extinct in the wild. In 1999, we discovered the first proof worldwide of this charismatic species occurring in nature. Now we have created a large nesting beach in Nagshankar, Assam, and thus greatly improved the reproductive options for this endangered species.

Since its first description in 1875, this large-growing, soft-shell turtle was known only from the 94 x 61 meter water basin in the immediate vicinity of a shrine for Bayazid Bostami, an Islamic mystic of Sufism, in Nasirabad near Chittagong in the southeast of Bangladesh. Then in 1999, for the first time ever, we were able to record N. nigricans in other temple ponds in northeast India and Bangladesh and even more surprising, we found them in the wild! This dark, soft-shell turtle is fed and worshipped in several Hindu temples, but also in an Islamic Mosque. Worshippers frequently feed the up to 90 cm large turtles. We previously modified 2 temple ponds for the survival and propagation of this species. Now Turtle Island has built a nesting site in Nagshankar, Assam, with generous support from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Progeny-Goeritz-Hildebrandt GbR) and Rupali Ghosh. In addition to housing probably the largest worldwide population of N. nigricans living in human care, the Nagshankar Temple pond is also home to many other species, including Ganges Softshell Turtles (Nilssonia gangetica) and Assamese Roof Turtles (Pangshura sylhetensis).

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