Project Scientist/Ph.D. Candidate, Center for Herpetology/Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
Location: Terai region and the Chambal National River Sanctuary, India
Research: Status, Threats, and Conservation of the Indian Narrow Headed Soft-shell Turtle (Chitra indica) in Northern India
Species/Topic: Narrow headed soft-shell turtle (Chitra indica)
Abstract: The Indian Narrow Headed Soft-shell turtle (Chitra indica) is listed by the IUCN as endangered and its status elevation to critically endangered has recently been proposed due to range wide populations declines. These declines are mainly due to unsustainable harvesting (the cartilage from the turtles' shells is very valuable in traditional East Asian cuisine) coupled with severe habitat degradation. We propose to document the current populations of this species through extensive statewide surveys, trade investigation as well as commencing a pilot head-starting program (i.e., the practice of raising hatchling turtles in captive until they reach a size/age that affords them greater survivorship upon release back into the wild). These actions are also supported in the 2006 "Indian Freshwater Turtles & Tortoises Action Plan." We hope that the results from our proposed project will help convince the Indian Government to design and implement an effective conservation strategy that includes the elevation of C. indica from schedule IV (lowest legal protection) to schedule I (highest legal protection) of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972, thereby granting this species greater legal protection within India.