Networking and Capacity Building for Conservation and Turtle Diversity in India:
An initiative by YPLT Member

CEC Young Professionals Leadership Team (YPLT) member Chittaranjan Baruah (29) has formed a scientific network named “Turtle Conservation and Research Program (TCRP)” for safeguarding the freshwater turtle species in northeast India. The TCRP is one of the international collaborating partners of “Year of the Turtle 2011.”

The Turtle Conservation & Research Programme (TCRP) is a scientific network initiated by CEC Young Professionals Leadership Team (YPLT) member Chittaranjan Baruah. TCRP is dedicated to safeguarding freshwater turtle species in northeast India. At the conjunction of the Himalaya and the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots, northeast India is regarded as a major turtle conservation priority area. The TCRP seeks global input for local solutions to saving endangered turtles. Since its inception in 2009, the TCRP has started community awareness and capacity building for safeguarding the region’s turtle with programs to document diversity and abundance, nesting surveys and in-situ egg protection.

Ongoing Awareness Programs
A series of awareness campaigns (both oral and poster/brochure presentations) have been carried in riparian village communities, including local schools, across Assam. TCRP celebrates ‘Endangered species Day’, ’World Biodiversity Day’ and ‘ World Turtle Day’ in different parts of Assam to educate the community in turtle conservation. Several events are being organized to involve all the age groups, making them excited about the role of turtles in our environment. These celebrations helped to plan for a series of follow-up meetings in “Year of the Turtle 2011”, in an effort to save the regional turtle diversity. The TCRP created dialogue with regional conservation organizations as well as local researchers, in an effort to build strong partnerships and networks for a wider turtle conservation programme in the region. Training on various aspects of turtle biology and conservation viz. survey techniques, egg collection, and hatchery management has been given to several students volunteers.

Ex-situ habitat development for temple pond turtles
The temple pond turtles of northeast India, including the critically endangered ‘Black soft-shell turtle’ (Nilssonia nigricans) are facing serious threats due to habitat unsuitability and lack of proper supplementary food. Therefore, in association with the “Hajo Madhab Mandir Pukhuri Parichalana Committee.” TCRP has recently started temple pond habitat quality improvement, nesting site creation, and nest protection program in the Madhab temple pond of Assam. Suitable sand-banks have been created in the corners of the pond for turtle basking and nesting. So far, more than 15 nests of Black softshell turtle are found in the newly created sand-banks. Turtles are basking peacefully in the sandbanks. Similar kind of activities will be replicated in two more temple ponds in northeast India very soon.

The TCRP Celebrates Year of the Turtle 2011 in Assam
The TCRP is one of the international collaborating partners of “Year of the Turtle 2011”. On the occasion of “Year of the Turtle 2011”, the TCRP has started organizing a series of awareness campaign. The main aim of the program is to create awareness among the people of northeast India regarding the importance of biodiversity and turtle conservation. The activities include a series of popular talks on conservation biology among the local communities, environmental awareness programme targeting students and local communities, extempore speech, drawing and painting competitions among the local school children etc. It is noteworthy to mention that the northeast India are famous for flagship species like the Assam roofed turtle (Pangshura sylhetensis) and the Black Softshell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans). Several events are being organized to involve all the age groups, making them excited about the role of turtles in our environment

Opportunities at the TCRP for young professionals
TCRP has provision for internship opportunities for post-graduate or graduate students, in its ongoing conservation programmes particularly aimed at research and conservation of Turtle. Interns will be working with experienced conservationists of Indian Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program (IFTCP). TCRP plans to organize Capacity building training for conservation leadership for competent young conservationists

Chittaranjan’s experiences in the Asian Scholarship Program-2010
Chittaranjan started his work on phylogeography of certain freshwater turtles for his PhD program and is currently conducting several studies to solve important biogeography questions relating to the conservation of freshwater turtle diversity in India. Recently, Chitta has undertaken a study of advanced turtle conservation research techniques at different venues around the USA under the 2010 Asian Scholarship Program for in-situ Chelonian Conservation (ASP in-situ CC; // also participated in a number of activities during his visit to North America, including the Conservation Leadership Programme Award Winner’s training in Calgary, and the 24th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB 2010), University of Alberta, Canada; a sea turtle release by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island; turtle trapping with the Turtle Conservation Project in Massachusetts; the Wetlands Institute display at the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society’s Annual Turtle Show; a visit with Peter Pritchard at the Chelonian Research Institute in Oviedo, Florida; and the Turtle Survival Alliance Eight Annual Symposium in Orlando.

Turtle conservation Centre in Assam
The TCRP is in the process of setting up of the first community-based turtle conservation centre in Assam. The centre will be active from the World turtle Day, 23rd May’2011.

For more information, contact Chittaranjan Baruah, Coordinator-TCRP, Assam, India.

Also, see these websites for for more information about turtle conservation in northeast: