Why Should We Save Tortoises ?

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Many of us have heard the moral story of the rabbit and the tortoise. 

There is a race between a slow-moving tortoise and a fast-moving rabbit. Having a boastful pride of winning the tortoise in the race, the rabbit better sleeps than taking a quick rest for a while without reaching the goal. On the other hand, the tortoise makes it to the finish line first by walking slowly but steadily and wins.

This inspiring story is eternal. People are beginning to forget the tortoise that inspires them to move forward patiently. On the contrary, if there is a delay in any work, people also say, ‘What a tortoise!’ But many may not know the actual speed of the tortoise.

Few people know that the slow-moving tortoise works for humans and nature. Just as the vulture we know is a land vulture, the tortoise is a water vulture. It helps keep aquatic ecosystems in balance, say biologists. Turtles help manage their numbers by eating caterpillars, chipmunks, and gnats. 

“Turtles help keep the water clean by eating sick, rotting animals, including larvae,” says Asmita Shrestha, a researcher at Greenhood Nepal. 

According to Chandramani Aryal, a researcher at the Center for Environmental Studies and Conservation, turtles can also help spread plants. 

“Some plant seeds are eaten and digested by turtles,” he says, “defecating in different places helps the plants to spread.”

But due to a lack of interest in conservation, the amphibian tortoise is on the verge of extinction. Research and conservation programs have been implemented by prioritizing large animals, including tigers, elephants and rhinos. Not only the government but also the donors are ready to help in the protection of large animals. The tortoise is in a critical condition upon the lack of interest in conservation.

Turtle in Crisis

There are 16 species and two subspecies of tortoises in Nepal. Tapil Prakash Rai, a Turtle Rescue and Conservation Center representative, said that the turtles were in critical condition. A study conducted two years ago found that 60 percent of the tortoise species found in Nepal are endangered.

“Turtles are on the verge of extinction,” said Rai. “75 percent of the turtles found in Nepal are in danger of extinction.”

Aryal, a researcher at the Center for Environmental Studies and Conservation and an associate professor at the Padma Kanya Campus, says that turtles are in crisis due to increased poaching, human encroachment, lack of water resources, and habitat management.

“People lack awareness that turtles should be protected,” said Aryal. Contracts are given for fishing in Tarai ponds. In such cases, the traps are sold or eaten by humans. That is why turtle conservation is an additional challenge.

China and Vietnam have large turtle markets. Stakeholders say that Nepal is being used as a transit point for poaching, even from India.

Greenhood Nepal researcher Shrestha also says that the tortoise is in crisis due to the increase in poaching. “Large quantities of turtles were found being sold in Kositappu,” she said.

Conservationists say the turtle’s habitat is in crisis as wetlands, ponds and streams are drying up due to human encroachment and climate change.

The tortoise is also in crisis due to superstition. “Some people are raising tortoises as good luck pets,” said Shrestha.

Haribhadra Acharya, information officer at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, says that legal action other bylaw attentions will enforce against poaching tortoise. “I have heard of eating turtle meat and keeping it at home,” he said. “If illegal work is found, action will be taken.”

No Study

An integral part of conservation is research. It is also difficult to plan for preservation without wildlife research. Research on animals should be done in the habitat more than other researches. Monitoring their activities requires time, dedication and investment.

In 1995, Pvt. Under the leadership of Karan Bahadur Shah and five years later, in 2000, under the supervision of Kaluram Khumbu, the study of Nepal’s turtles was conducted. In 2008-09, a group of amphibian researchers, Prakash Chandra Aryal, conducted a survey of ponds, rivers and wetlands in 120 places in the Terai.

Due to the lack of up-to-date research in the tortoise area, conservation has not been possible. There are 16 species of tortoise in Nepal, including Lamche, Dhwanse Kanthe Pate, Tinpate Pahadi, Bahune Khole, Pahelo Bhunde Dhuri. There are two subspecies out of them.

Turtles Found in Nepal.

Researcher Aryal says that it is impossible to tell the latest condition of turtles in Nepal. Where are the 16 species of tortoises? It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.

Experts say that turtle studies are limited to research writing and research at the university. Even though they are included in the university curriculum, the students are confused due to lack study materials.

Associate Professor Chandramani Aryal says that the curriculum includes minimal subjects. “That’s what we read about tortoises and rabbits when we were little,” he says

Associate Professor Chandramani Aryal says that the curriculum includes minimal subjects. “That’s what we read about tortoises and rabbits when we were little,” he says. That is why awareness has not been spread at the community level. 

Conservationists say that research has not been done as turtle conservation is not on the agenda. Even after reading the book, many do not know about turtles. He says, ‘There is no material on tortoise conservation.’ Another thing is that it is challenging to count like other wildlife. Many people are unaware of the importance that such turtles have on the ecosystem.

Conservation Efforts in Name-only

Haribhadra Acharya, an ecologist and information officer at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, admits that the program was not focused on turtles. “However, some conservation work has been done,” says Acharya.

He said that the management plan to be coordinated by the department in the protected area would also include turtles in the ecosystem, habitat management and other programs. Researcher Prakash Chandra Aryal says the government’s efforts to conserve turtles are minimal.

He says, “The government argues that small animals will be protected as large areas will be protected to protect large animals, but the tortoise species outside the protected areas are at risk.”

How to Save 

Sabin Adhikari, coordinator of the Turtle Rescue and Conservation Center Club Jhapa, says public awareness is needed to save the turtles.

“If you go to mow the lawn or go fishing, you will find that some people eat and some people raise,” he said. “Some restaurants also sell tortoise meat.”

Asmita Shrestha, who has studied the situation of trafficking in the Kositappu area, said that a detailed study should be done first to conserve turtles. “People living near the tortoise’s habitat don’t know what a tortoise is, what its significance is,” she said. If you knew that turtles should not be sold, why would you stay? 

According to Associate Professor Aryal, conservation of life is possible only if it is linked to the community’s livelihood. He focuses on the regulation of the practice of leasing out ponds and wetlands.

Rai, a Turtle Rescue and Conservation Center representative, said that turtles could be protected by linking them with religious beliefs. 

“In Hinduism, the tortoise is believed as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu,” he says.

He said that turtle rescue and conservation centers should be set up in different parts of the country.

Youth Interest in Conservation

Lately, young people have become interested in tortoise conservation. A turtle club has been formed in Jhapa for the preservation of turtles.

When they find a tortoise somewhere, eating meat or raising a baby, they rescue it. The turtles were taken to the Turtle Rescue and Conservation Center, said Sabin Adhikari, the club’s program coordinator.

At present, there are eight species of tortoises in the center. A red-eared tortoise found abroad is also kept.

According to officials, 30 turtles are currently under direct surveillance. About 150 turtles have been released in the nearby Taltalaiya. He said that 15 members of the club had been directly involved in the conservation of turtles.

“Everyone is a volunteer,” he said.

The youth of Greenhood Nepal is also involved in tortoise conservation. Shrestha, a researcher at Greenhood Nepal, who is also a researcher at Greenhood Nepal, said that she had given information about tortoise conservation at the community level in different districts of the Terai. She also says that from time to time, competitions and street plays are performed.

History of the Tortoise

The tortoise is believed to have originated long before dinosaurs, about 200 million years ago. Since then, they have been a special kind of habitat, like a shield covered from the outside or covered with thick leather. Also, the inner part was covered with a hard covering underneath.

No matter how large a species was, it could hold people in its empty shell. Such giant tortoises were called a colossal atlas.

Also, another terrifying crocodile named Ramphosucus crusaders lived in the broad valley of the ancient river Ganges about 10 million years ago, according to another book. Dinosaurs became extinct over time, but turtles have managed to save their species. There are currently about 356 species of tortoises in the world.

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