Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, 28th August, 2018 : Wildlife Trust of India and SPOAR (Society for Protecting Ophiofauna & Animal Rights) came together to save a small yet significant population of turtles identified as Indian Roofed Turtle (Pangshura tecta), a Schedule-I species under the WPA (1972) at Lotadevi Temple pond in Jalpaiguri.
This species of turtles hasn’t been reported outside any protected area in and around Jalpaiguri. SPOAR, through a Rapid Action Project of WTI, took crucial measures of fencing the temple pond, which was frequently subjected to turtle poaching (for meat and pet trade) and heavy pollution. To revive the species habitat, the team also undertook cleaning, dredging and subsequently added native aquatic plants and fish to ensure its adequate nutrition.
To substantiate the conservation efforts, the team decided to encompass the religious belief and the legacy of Lotadevi deity by establishing a Kurma avatar (second Avatar of Lord Vishnu in the form of a turtle to support the foundation for the cosmos) temple. This temple is the fourth of its kind in India where “Kurma” avatar idol has been installed and worshipped. This symbolic idol is placed on an alter just outside the fenced area where devotees can place their daily offerings rather than directly polluting the pond. This art of possibilities is truly a reflection of ancient teachings, imbibing nature and religion to ensure harmonious coexistence.
“SPOAR was concerned that turtles of terai and dooars are vanishing rapidly. The RAP of WTI supported SPOAR financially and technically to successfully carry out a multi-layer project which already showed positive effects with the new turtle hatchlings and Community involvement”, said Mr Shyama Prasad Pandey from SPOAR.