India 2012 Part 1 - Working with Turtle Survival Alliance (India) on a survey of softshelled turtles
Unfortunately the funding from the British Chelonia Group was
unsuccessful due to my lack of academic qualifications, therefore
validity of my potential researches. However I promised to report on
what I do find. SOS Orangutans said that I would be unable to work with
them in Indonesia due to lack of work permit, the same was true of
Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) in Indonesia. As it would take months to
get the visas required. Which is a shame I found out this late on as
initially I had months in which to prepare. They also say an open ended
offer of help is difficult to place.
These projects were secondary to the main project Force for the Forest which is still all systems go.
Wed 9th May 2012
headed for Karnatica in India as the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA)
working with the Madras Crocodile Bank said I could help with a survey. I
spoke to Force for the Forest in Indonesia and we decided fore filing
the survey was a good idea.
I entered the state of Karnatica
thinking it was all very nice. Lots of trees and wildlife. The bus
crammed on his breaks at one point and a huge snake passes over the road
in front of us. (Talking with Shashwat later we decide it was indeed a
King Cobra due to markings, size and shape.) Plenty of monkeys are seen
on the roadside. Then I realise this is a reserve. At the point the
reserve ends the carnage begins. Now we have a rural landscape with cows
and crops. The most shocking thing was the degree of logging. Villages
crammed with chopped trees. After passing though a fairly poor India for
sometime the reserves start again as we close in on Dandeli. However
here is not rosy with quite a lot of agriculture and logging
encroaching. The town of Dandeli is a typical Indian town, noisy, smelly
and dusty. Though there are a lot of trees and wildlife, particularly
birds, than a average Indian town.
Shashwat was delayed in
getting to me and I then spent four nights in Dandeli alone. Lucky I
have writing my novel to keep me occupied!
Tue 15th May 2012
was delayed getting away from other projects and in trying to get a
wildlife permit. Though he now has a permit for the whole of India we
need to get local permits. Traveling on the bus 30mins to a town and an
administration building we are then told we need to head to another town
3 hours away. Traveling on the bus is not so simple in India and we
need to wait for another the next day.
Shashwat wishes to survey
soft shelled turtles, ask questions of locals and fishermen, visit
markets and the turtle habitats near fishing villages.
Talking and staying with fishermen
with permissions and after talking to the Haliyal Forest Department and
Fisheries Department we are lent a motorbike by the owner of a wildlife
resort. Armed with a questionnaire for the fishermen we head to a Joida
a small town where the fishermen live nearby. We spend the night at the
Supe Reservoir and have put out a net specially to catch soft shelled
turtles. We have no luck in catching any. The meal the fisherman Santosh
cooked for us over an open fire was superb!
Sun 20th May 2012
attend a talk about snakes at Kolgi Wildlife Resort where,
unfortunately I understand nothing as the talk is not in English. I must
learn the language! At the end the snake man has several snakes to
handle. Kolgi GPS co-ordinates: 15.09949N 074.37950E
Mon 21st May 2012
Long drive to Anshi Wildlife Camp, Shashwat does crocodile talk, then a long drive back.
Tue 22nd May 2012
net catches a male softshelled turtle, 13kgs, 42inches long! We implant
a DCW tag and let it go. Leith's softshell turtle (Nilssonia leithii).
On first seeing him I declared that he was 'lovely' as in beautiful,
Shashwat took it to mean 'cute and friendly' and said: "No he isn't!"
The turtle was indeed so beautiful, more than is clear in the photos. He
was very aggressive and would bite hard at anything near his reach.
Though he was content to sit there and not move about as we photographed
him. What struck me most were his eyes which were very sensitive to
movement and very mobile. Later I named him Patrick.
Wed 23rd May 2012
Made a large banner for the World Turtle Day. Drove to Bison Wildlife Resort and Shashwat does a talk on soft shelled turtles.
Thur 24th May 2012
to stay at Supe Reservoir again and the fisherman Santosh casts our
special turtle net. In the morning no turtle but a lot of damage to the
net we assume they got away.
Fri 24th May 2012
Last day in
Dandeli and we visit another wildlife lodge to present them with the
banner for World Turtle Day. Then we go with a forest ranger to rescue a
cobra snake from a house and release it in the forest. Then at 8:30PM
we head to the sleeper bus destined for Bangalore. I stay with Shashwat
and his family for one night before my flight to Indonesia.
said that having an Englishman with him opened doors much more quickly
than usual, but could also raise the price. Therefore he always decided
when I should come along to a meeting (to sit there like a mute) or not.
The thinking was that if I had come all the way from England to see a
turtle then I must be keen and shouldn't be disappointed.
other hand when I first arrived in Dandeli I had a lot of trouble
particularly at the local restaurant as the waiters got stressed that I
couldn't speak their language. One of them used to tap the table and
almost shout: "What?!" when I needed service. When I had an Indian
friend though the tide changed and they couldn't do enough for us. The
said waiter, once told by Shashwat that I thought he had been a bit rude
to me, then secretly came to shake my hand and ask my name. Shashwat
also found that he was considered my cool having an English friend!
Why are freshwater softshelled turtles important?
a certain village in India where they worship the turtle there are a
complete lack of mosquitoes as the turtles eat the larvae. There was
also a case where 50 turtles were released into a stretch of river in
order to clean it up. The turtles take out things that should not be
there and aerate the water by borrowing in the substrate of the river.
Why are they in danger?
and all chelonia are being eaten at a frightening rate. Not only by the
Chinese but by locals who cannot afford any other meat. The calipee
(towards the back of the shell) on the turtle is considered a delicacy
and is removed while the turtle is alive, it is also used in Chinese
medicine. They are highly endangered.
All pictures here: https://picasaweb.google.com/jtuijl