Towards the Safety of Indian Tent Turtles
The central government has allayed fears that the Indian tent turtle is on the verge of extinction due to illegal mining in Narmada River.
There have been reports that these types of turtles are threatened due to illegal mining in Narmada River.
They are also said to be endangered as they are widely traded as a pet at aquariums. Due to their attractive appearance, they are in great demand in the pet market.
The Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, told the Parliament recently that Indian tent turtle is listed in Schedule –I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and is thereby provided the highest degree of protection.
According to him, the Government has taken several steps to protect wildlife and its habitats including for Indian tent turtle species. Important steps taken in this regard include:
(i) Protected Areas, viz., National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves have been created in the country covering important habitats to provide better protection to wildlife, including threatened species and their habitat.
(ii) Financial assistance is provided to the State/Union Territory Governments under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats’, for providing better protection to wildlife and improvement of habitat.
(iii) The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 provides for stringent punishment for violation of its provisions. The Act also provides for forfeiture of any equipment, vehicle or weapon that is used for committing wildlife offence(s).
(iv) The local communities are involved in conservation measures through eco-development activities which help the forest departments in protection of wildlife.
(v) The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) coordinates with State/UTs and other enforcement agencies to gather intelligence about poaching and unlawful trade in wild animals and animal articles.
However, despite the minister’s assurances are comforting, the wildlife watchers do point out that the Zoological Survey of India(ZSI) has not conducted any survey in the Narmada River on impact of illegal mining on Indian tent turtle and its effect on river ecosystem.
There were reports earlier that a study by scientists of ZSI concluded that due to illegal sand mining and smuggling in the Narmada river, the Indian Tent Turtles are on the verge of extinction. This study had said that Indian Tent Turtles have completely disappeared from the area around Harda and Khandwa along with the confluence of Narmada-Tawa river ‘Bandrabhan’.
The government is now saying that the above was not an official study by ZSI.
It may be noted that the Indian tent turtle (Pangshura tentoria) is a species of turtle in the family Geoemydidae. The species is endemic to India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Its preferred habitats are freshwater rivers and swamps.
These turtles are mostly found in peninsular India, particularly in Odisha, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Madhya Pradesh. They are also found in the northern tributaries of Ganga and are recorded from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam.
India Tent Turtle habitats include still water pools on river side and slow running water near the river banks. These are active swimmers and are mainly herbivorous. They are proven natural cleaners as they survive by eating moss and algae etc. and increase the amount of oxygen in the water.
Incidentally, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 provides the following protections:
– The protection of the country’s wild animals, birds and plant species, in order to ensure environmental and ecological security.
– The protection of a listed species of animals, birds and plants, and also for the establishment of a network of ecologically-important protected areas in the country.
– The Protection for various types of protected areas such as Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Parks etc.
There are six schedules provided in the WPA for protection of wildlife species which can be concisely summarized as under:
These species need rigorous protection and therefore, the harshest penalties for violation of the law are for species under this Schedule.
Animals under this list are accorded high protection. They cannot be hunted except under threat to human life.
Schedule III & IV
This list is for species that are not endangered. This includes protected species but the penalty for any violation is less compared to the first two schedules.
This schedule contains animals which can be hunted.
This list contains plants that are forbidden from cultivation.