Soil poses threat to turtles’ hatchlings amid rising mercury, say experts | India News – Times of India

PILIBHIT: The ongoing heatwave, that has affected almost every part of the country, has posed a great threat to hatchlings of turtles during their journey from the hatching spot to rivers and reservoirs. While riversides are feared to scorch the feet of hatchlings, they are also restraining the turtles from foraging as most freshwater turtle species come out of water only in abundance of moisture along the riverside and at the banks of reservoirs.
The director of Turtle Survival Alliance India Foundation (TSA), Sahilendra Singh, said turtle species are currently hatching of eggs after laying of eggs was completed in March-April.“As the incubation period, that spans between 45 and 75 days in terms of different turtle species, is likely to mature within the next few days, the hatchlings, following their inborn characteristics, will start moving rapidly towards water bodies without the escort of the mother turtle soon after coming out of the eggs. In such a situation, the blistering soil surface may cause irreparable damage to their feet,” Singh said.
Pilibhit is home to 13 turtle species of which 11 have been enlisted in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act. In addition, most carry the status of endangered and critically endangered as per the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“The district is nestled within the Terai Arc Land (TAL) near Himalayan foothills on the Indo-Nepal border comprises over 600 small wetlands, 10 rivers and some giant reservoirs. Most importantly, the river Devha, Sharda and their tributaries which meander frequently during the monsoon every year, form several temporary alluvial islands with thick layers of filamentous benthic algae. This feature significantly contributes to the varied turtle fauna in the area,” Singh added.
Earlier, the State Wetland Authority (SWA) in UP had identified 303 wetlands in Pilibhit in 2019 stretched in over 2.5 hectares each. For precise results, SWA authorities had applied advanced satellite and remote sensing technology during the identification, said forest officials.
“The hot surface of soil near rivers and reservoirs may result in desiccation of tiny turtles’ eggs like Indian eyed turtle which is the smallest in all turtle species identified so far in UP. This turtle excavates a very shallow pit to lay merely 2-3 eggs and lack of moisture due to the extreme heat wave can damage the eggs,” said Shriparna Dutta, a turtle expert associated with TSA.
“The medium-sized turtle species like spotted pond turtle, lays 13-39 eggs while the big species like Indian soft shell turtles produce 18-22 eggs”, she added.
The divisional forest officer of Pilibhit tiger reserve, Manish Singh, said forest personnel were striving hard to maintain the minimal level of water in the reserve’s water bodies. The efforts to restore water flow in the dried-up part of river Mala were also on a war-footing. “For rejuvenation and widening of this river, which is home to many scheduled species of turtles, a comprehensive plan has recently been sent to the state administration,” he said.

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