Rare turtle discovered by Portsmouth conservationists in India

The first breeding population of an 'incredibly rare' turtle has been discovered in India. The species, which is native to the rivers of south and southeast Asia, is classified as critically endangered.


Discovery of Cantor's Giant Softshell Turtle

Conservationists, including those from the University of Portsmouth, have uncovered the first breeding population of the Cantor's giant softshell turtle in India. This species is classified as critically endangered and is native to the rivers in south and southeast Asia. The elusive turtle was found on the banks of the Chandragiri River in Kerala, southern India.

The groundbreaking study, published in the journal Oryx, was led by conservationists from the University of Portsmouth and several other institutions worldwide. The University of Portsmouth spokesperson described the Cantor turtle as rare and secretive, which has fascinated and concerned conservationists for a long time.

Community Engagement and Discovery

The research team implemented a unique approach to locate the nesting site of the Cantor's giant softshell turtle. Instead of relying on conventional ecological survey methods, they used local knowledge and historical sightings to piece together the exact location. Community engagement played a crucial role in their success, as locals provided information on historical sightings and even aided in the release of accidentally caught individuals.

Dr. Francoise Cabada-Blanco, from the University of Portsmouth, highlighted the importance of the community's willingness to share information. Through household interviews and the establishment of a local alert network, the researchers were able to document not only glimpses of the turtles but also evidence of a reproductive population, rewriting the narrative surrounding this disappearing species in India's waters.

Conservation Efforts and Future Plans

The groundbreaking work by the research team led to the first documentation of a female nest and the rescue of eggs from flooded nests. Hatchlings were later released into the river to support the survival and growth of the population. Cantor's giant softshell turtles are freshwater inhabitants, often exceeding 1m (3ft) in length and weighing over 100kg (220lb).

Currently, the team is focused on establishing a community hatchery and nursery near the nest site to further protect and conserve the species. This discovery marks an important milestone in the conservation of the Cantor's giant softshell turtle and highlights the significance of community engagement in biodiversity research and preservation.