20 years on, Chitwan National Park conserves endangered tortoise

CHITWAN: The Chitwan National Park which has been conserving wildlife has also been protecting endangered species of tortoise. The reptiles are fed until they grow up and then they are released in the park for study, research and mass consciousness.

A total of 30 tortoises belonging to five different species have been kept in the crocodile breeding centre, according to assistant chief conservation officer Bed Bahadur Khadka.

Three different aquatic species of tortoises have been kept together with the crocodiles while two different terrestrial species have been kept separately. The reptiles seized by police personnel from the possession of poachers and others rescued from within and outside the park have been conserved since 2000, Khadka said and added that six of the tortoises have already been released in the park.

The five different species of tortoises include Elongated tortoise, Hill tortoise, Indian black, Indian flapshell and Indian softshell. The former two species of reptiles feed on grass, leaves, fruits and insects. They are amphibians and remain active in the morning and evening while resting in water during summer and on land at other times.

Likewise, Indian black tortoise is an aquatic species and omnivorous by nature.

Similarly, Indian flapshell species are found in wetland and ponds. These species were traditionally kept in the well to clean it. Indian softshells are also omnivorous and aquatic.

The species of Indian black, Indian flapshell and Indian softshell have been kept together with crocodiles. They are fed with meat and fishes while other tortoises are given chickpeas, soybean, pumpkin, carrot among other vegetable items.

The eggs laid by the tortoises are also hatched in the breeding centre. Officer Khadka said the study on the breeding of tortoises were underway and added that the study on their behaviour was also being carried out.

Chief Conservation Officer at the CNP, Ananath Baral asserted that the tortoises were being conserved to preserve the gene of endangered tortoises that are on the verge of extinction in Nepal.

He expressed his view that conservation of tortoise was very important in order to maintain the ecological balance in the ecosystem and suggested that other sectors should also support the conservation efforts.

Baral said many different species of tortoises in the country are endangered while there is also a decline in the population of other species.

"Of the total 250 species of tortoise in the world, Nepal is home for 18 species," Officer Khadka said.

(Translated by Suresh Chaudhary)