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NPS salvo to preserve city turtles

Guwahati, Sept 1: As a part of their move to save turtles of Jor Pukhuri at Ugratala Temple, students of NPS International School, Guwahati carried out a cleanliness drive in and around the pond on Thursday.

Students collected plastic packets, bottles, unhygienic materials other garbage etc, and dumped it in the nearby GMC dustbins. Apart from cleaning the water level of the pond and putting wooden platforms for the turtles to take rest, students also placed dustbins around the pond and distributed leaflets among the local people to create awareness for the preservation of turtles. The NPS students also put up posters and banners around the pond to create awareness among the masses in this regard.

Addressing a Community Meeting organized as part of the event, students of the school tried to create awareness among the masses about the preservation of turtles.

Of the 29 species of freshwater turtles identified in India, 20 are found in Assam, and temple ponds in Assam are known to house a dozen species. Even the extremely rare black soft-shelled turtle – categorized as extinct in wild by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – finds a secure home in a few temple-ponds of Assam. However, there is an urgent need to adopt scientific measures for ensuring the long-term survival of the turtles in these habitats.

Lauding the effort of the school students in preservation of the endangered animals, senior priest of Ugratala Temple, Mr Haren Sharma, said, “Apart from proper enforcement of Wild Life (Protection) Act and implementation of scientific measures for conservation of turtles, some of the smallest initiatives like raising awareness about this animal trade, avoiding the buying of turtles as pets and discouraging others from doing so can make a difference.” He also urged people to maintain cleanliness in and around the pond.

The Ugratala Temple pond is facing several problems requiring scientific interventions. One of the major problems here is the turtles have little breeding space and they are habituated to a diet that is not natural for them.

According to the local populace, the Ugratara Temple pond houses over 150 turtles. Looking at the existing water area in the pond, this number becomes very high creating a severe problem for the turtles.

There was no proper breeding site for the turtles in the pond. The perimeter of the historic pond concretized, leaving no space for the turtles to lay eggs. Straying turtles are also extremely vulnerable to road accidents and capture for consumption, some of the college-going students who attended the Community Meeting said.

“Accumulation of organic as well as non-biodegradable waste in the water remains another burning problem here. Feeding of the turtles on unnatural food and poor water quality facilities turned to be major constraints,” the students said.

Students of NPS International School, Guwahati are trying to create awareness among the masses to make this age-old pond a turtle-friendly habitat for the last couple of months.

Through a number of hoardings, posters, and banners etc., students of the school are trying to create awareness among the masses to protect this endangered animal. Apart from this, NPSites have also cleaned both water and the banks of the pond for the welfare of turtles. Dustbins have also been placed on the banks of the pond for the welfare of turtles.