Four fishermen spotted a Peacock Softshell Turtle, an endangered and protected species, in a water body near Sector V and saved it from being killed by villagers, resulting in its rescue by the forest department.
The fishermen were engaged in cleaning the water body in Chhainabi, which is part of the East Kolkata Wetlands, and spotted a large turtle in a corner, said a forest department official.
The pond, Goltala Fisheries Project, is maintained by the state fisheries department.
As news spread, men from neighbouring areas reached the water body armed with knives and bamboo sticks. They demanded that the fishermen hand the turtle to them, which they wanted to kill for its meat.
The fishermen, however, stood guard and warned the villagers against harming the reptile. One of them rushed to a small office of the fisheries department nearby and alerted Kartick Chandra Mondal, an employee.
Mondal asked the fisherman to rush back to the water body and ensure that the turtle was not harmed. He then contacted his superior, who gave him the number of the Wild Animal Rescue and Transit Facility Centre in Salt Lake, a wing of the forest department.
Following an alert from Mondal, a team of foresters went to Chhainabi and rescued the turtle.
A senior forest department official said what the fishermen saved from being killed was a Peacock Softshell Turtle, a Schedule I animal protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. Killing, hunting or selling a Schedule I animal is illegal.
Peacock Softshell Turtles are found in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and have been termed endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“These turtles are often hunted for their meat as well as the outer cartilage beneath their shells,” the official said.
Manoj Kumar Josh, who is in charge of the rescue centre in Salt Lake, said the turtle was a male weighing around 30kg.
“It is an adult male and is likely to be more than a decade old. We have placed it under observation and our initial examination has not revealed any injuries. It seems to be quite healthy,” Josh told Metro on Sunday.
The turtle will be observed for a week before being released into the wild.