23 December 2022.
In an effort to conserve one of the largest tortoise species in mainland Asia, ten captive-bred Asian Giant Tortoises (Manouria emys) were recently released into Ntangki National Park in Peren district, India. The rewilding process was carried out with the assistance of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society India (WCSI).
- The Asian Giant Tortoise is listed as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
- Over-exploitation and unsustainable use by local communities have pushed the species to the brink of extinction.
- In December of last year, the TSA and Creative Conservation Alliance released ten captive-bred individuals in the Matamuhuri valley of Bangladesh.
Conservation Efforts in Nagaland
- The Nagaland Zoological Park in Dimapur has the highest number of Asian Giant Tortoise, with 110 hatchlings and juveniles from 13 adults.
- These juveniles, born in 2018 and weighing an average of 2.4 kilograms, were conserved and bred for five years at the park before being released in a process known as “soft release.”
- This method gradually introduces captive-raised species into the wild, allowing them to develop a sense of “site fidelity” and become habituated to living near the release site.
Long-Term Conservation Program
- The Nagaland Forest Department is determined to restore a viable population of Asian Giant Tortoises in the state and will be working with stakeholders and partner organizations to do so.
- The long-term program will also engage local communities and raise awareness in order to make them active participants in the conservation mission.
- The current release of these tortoises marks a significant step towards population replenishment.
Rewilding exercises, such as the one undertaken in Ntangki National Park, not only help to rebuild endangered species populations but also provide valuable scientific information for the development of long-term monitoring and release strategies. The Nagaland Forest Department’s efforts to restore the Asian Giant Tortoise population in the state are crucial for the preservation of this critically endangered species.