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Experts suggest ways to save Kalyan Sagar turtles

Agartala, June 24: In response to growing public ire over deaths of black-shell turtles (Aspideretes nigricans) in Kalyan Sagar lake, the Tripura government has finally engaged an international team of experts to study the condition of the turtles in the lake as well as suggest ways and means of preserving and protecting them.

The lake, more than 500 years old, is close to Mata Tripureshwari temple, one of the holiest Hindu shrines.

The team comprised Peter Prichard, director of Turtle Preservation and Study Centre in Austria, eminent US environmentalist Marchi Von, zoologist Menon Deroza and engineer for construction of Artificial Turtle Breeding Centre Theds Steward. The team was led by Indian environmentalist and turtle specialist Rupali Ghosh.

The team that arrived in Tripura in response to a formal invitation from chief wildlife warden A.K. Gupta visited Kalyan Sagar lake, 55km southwest of Agartala in Udaipur subdivision and studied the turtles while inspecting the condition of the lake.

The district magistrate, Gomati district, D. Basu and chief wildlife warden A.K. Gupta accompanied the team.

The team of experts who conducted a number of primary tests with equipment they had brought along lauded the efforts of the state government in preserving and protecting the turtles. They, however, told the state government officials that dumping of plastics in Kalyan Sagar lake must be stopped totally to minimise pollution.

“Peter Prichard, the Austrian expert, said entire Kalyan Sagar must be cleaned and detoxicated from the effects of plastics. He also said quantum of food given to turtles and the time are inappropriate. Generally turtles are given biscuits or puffed rice as food in the afternoon but turtles prefer to take food in the evening and consumption of biscuits and puffed rice cause more harm than good,” said Barun Chakraborty, a member of the temple management committee.

Prichard said big fish in the lake gobble up baby turtles.

“The experts also suggested a ban on movement of people close to the turtle hatchery along the eastern bank of the lake. They said all lighting arrangements near the hatchery must be switched off at night because turtles do not approach hatcheries because of light,” Chakraborty said.

The experts also said Kalyan Sagar lake might contain more than one species of turtles, including Nilssonia nigricans or black soft shell turtles.

The team of experts will stay in Udaipur till tomorrow and submit a report to the state government before leaving the town making recommendations for preservation of turtles.

Deaths of 45 turtles in Kalyan Sagar lake over the past five years has become a major issue.

Turtles have been in the lake since the launching of Mata Tripureshwari temple by king Dhanya Manikya in 1501.

The state government had converted the four corners of the lake into pucca construction in 2009 and since then the problem of deaths of turtles began.

Subsequently, parts of the pucca construction were removed to create artificial hatchery for the turtles but this did not solve the problem which worsened because of pollution in Kalyan Sagar lake caused by dumping of plastic bags and carriers.