Assam is famous for its diversity of flora and fauna. In the various national parks and wilderness in its territory, hundreds of mammals, birds and reptiles can be found. The diversity of wildlife in Assam ensures a steady footfall of nature loving tourists round the year. However, it would be wrong to assume that the one horned Rhino and Asian Elephants are the only species of wildlife that you can witness in Assam. There are some rare and amazing species of turtles in Assam that you can explore as well.
The turtles of Assam
There are 21 turtle species that have been found in the Northeastern India. Among these, 19 species have been located in Assam alone. The natural habitat of most of these turtles has reduced significantly over time. This has led some of them to endangered status. Several such rare turtle breeds have found shelter in famous temple ponds of Assam. Efforts have been taken by NGOs and the government to increase the number of these threatened species in recent years.
The Assam Roofed Turtle
Also called the Sylhet roofed turtle, this turtle was found extensively in the Brahmaputra River. This turtle has an elevated and triangular carapace and serrated marginal plates. Adult turtles can grow up to 20 cm in length. The turtle prefers areas like tropical moist forest, fast-flowing streams etc. These turtles are quite shy and at slightest disturbance dive back into river or water body. Their body color helps the species camouflage by hiding into fallen dry leaves. They mostly nest between the winter months. Hunting by the tribes and loss of habitat has led to a steady decline in its population.
Black Softshell Turtle
Also called the Bostami turtle, this is one type of freshwater turtle seen in Assam. This is listed as a critically endangered species. Thought to be available only in Bangladesh, later the turtle was found in a few temple ponds of Assam and also in Brahmaputra River drainage. Its numbers in wild continue to be very low. It is often hunted for cartilage and meat.
In the last decade, efforts have been made to raise the population of rare turtles of Assam existing in various temple ponds. The ponds adjacent to temples like the Nagshankar temple, Kamakhya temple, Hayagriva Madhava Temple and Ugratara Temple in Assam have a population of rare turtle species. Post 2013, TSA India has put in efforts to improve living conditions of these turtles in such water bodies. The efforts have paid off and external hatching has been successful to an extent.
Title Image Courtesy: http://www.indianaturewatch.net