Itanagar: The recently recovered pair of impressed tortoises (Manouria impressa) — an elusive and vulnerable species never been sighted in India before — was handed over to Biological Park, Itanagar for further rehabilitation and research purposes on Thursday.
Dr Sorang Tadap, veterinary officer, Itanagar zoo, received the pair of tortoises as per the order from the chief wildlife warden of the state government.
Adding a new boost to the turtle conservation in Northeast India, probably in the country, the pair of tortoises was spotted and recovered from Yazali, a town in Lower Subansiri district of the state.
Experts believe that the rescue would write a new chapter in the history of turtle conservation in the Northeast, probably in the country.
The animals were examined, marked and photographed before being released in their original habitats. Impressed tortoises for long were known to have been found only in western Myanmar.
Among the 29 species of turtles around the world, there are 20 in Assam alone. With this discovery, the count goes up to 21 in the Northeast region: 20 in Assam, and one in Arunachal Pradesh, experts said. “The sighting of the Manouria impressa, the 29th turtle species in India, will account for a 5% increase in the diversity of the species in the country,” they added.
Found in Myanmar, as well as in pockets of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Malaysia, the impressed tortoise is an elusive, medium-sized species that inhabits moist, primary forests of hilly tracts. There is only one other species under this genus, the Manouria emys.
The impressed tortoise measures one feet, and has a ‘brilliant’ spine — bent upwards and beautifully serrated. It’s a magnificent looking creature — impressive in colour and shape. That is why it’s called the impressed tortoise in the first place.
In all probability, the tortoise must have been around for years in Arunachal Pradesh — and the fact that it had not been spotted till now is a clear indicator of the lack of research in the field.
The tortoise was rescued from a local boy from Yazil area on June 15. It was uploaded in the local wildlife enthusiastic forum called ‘Arunachal Against Hunting’ for species identification as it was a bit different from other land tortoises found in the localities till date.
“Then after three days, some herpetologists suspected it to be a rare and unique species. So, they rushed to Yazali to confirm the species of tortoises. Herpetology from Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) came and confirmed it as Manouria impressa, which is a rare and critically endangered species as per International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list,” Bunty Tao, a forest official at Raga, said.
The impressed tortoise lives at high elevations, up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Its’ behaviour is little known; diet in the wild may consist largely of mushrooms, although bamboo shoots are also eaten. The species is known for being difficult to keep alive in captivity; although its status in the wild is uncertain, it is eaten widely by local people and little captive breeding has occurred. The species has a golden brown shell and skin. Adults are much smaller than their relatives the Asian forest tortoise (Manouria emys), with a maximum size of 35 cm (14 in) carapace length, experts said.