#GoodNews: Assam Temple Helps Bring Back Extinct Turtle Species
A centuries-old temple in Hajo, Assam and its nature-loving caretaker are helping the black softshell turtle, which is officially extinct in the wild, make a comeback, a Times of India report said.
Assam was once rich in freshwater turtles but habitat loss and their exploitation as food have led to massive depletion in their population.
However, the turtles have found a safe haven in the pond of the Hayagriva Madhav temple in the Hajo pilgrimage centre, where turtles are regarded sacred.
Conservation group ‘Good Earth’ has joined hands with temple authorities to start a breeding programme.
"The population of the turtle in Assam has gone down by a great extent. So we thought we needed to intervene and do something to save the species from extinction," he said.
The first batch of 35 turtle hatchlings was released into a wildlife sanctuary nearby in January. This included 16 black softshells who had been reared by hand at the temple.
Pranab Malakar, the caretaker of the temple pond is key to this breeding process. According to him, he used to take care of the turtles because he liked them, even before they became his responsibility under Good Earth's initiative, reported The Times of India.
He collects the eggs laid by the turtles on the banks of the pond and places them into a incubator. Malakar said that the turtles are seen as incarnations of Lord Vishnu, which is why people respect them.
However, the breeding of these turtles has its own challenges, with the turtles losing their natural tendency to hunt for food since visitors to the temple throw them bread and other food.
(With inputs from The Times of India.)