130 turtles trapped by railway line in India12/08/2012 13:55:09 Railways and roads create deadly barriers for some wildlife
July 2012. Conservationists working on the Wildlife Trust of India's WTI's project to mitigate elephant mortality due to train hits found a total of 128 turtles trapped on the 33 km long railway track stretch in the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.
128 turtles trapped - 30 dead
Across the globe, railway tracks and highways cut across forests and are a cause of large number of animal deaths every year.Smaller numbers of large animals cause outrage
"The larger animals, like elephants and tigers in India, when involved in such accidents evoke great public outrage. There is research on mitigation measures to prevent these but smaller animals die in much larger numbers. There are no studies to show the number of casualties or species affected," says Behera.
In Dudhwa, the presence of two rivers, Suheli and Mohana, and several standing water bodies provide suitable habitat to turtles. A lot of these water bodies are present in the vicinity of the railway tracks. The life cycle of freshwater turtles include terrestrial movements such as nesting migrations and some to avoid unfavourable environmental conditions. During the nesting season female turtles leave wetlands and may have to cross roads and railway tracks in search of suitable nesting areas.
"The impacts of turtle mortality incidents are detrimental as turtles are long lived, have late sexual maturity and low juvenile survival rate," adds Behera. "This mortality in railway track is believed to contribute to population decline and local extirpation in the long run unless urgent attention is paid."
Unfortunately, scientific studies and management actions concentrate more towards large and charismatic species, while herpeto-fauna is often neglected or paid very little attention. A detailed study is required to understand the cause of turtle movement over the railway track and in assessing impacts of the railway track upon the turtles. This can help authorities in taking appropriate management measures."Low barriers can be designed to prevent turtles from climbing on to the tracks," says Dr Anil Kumar Singh, Deputy Director, WTI. "Underpasses at regular intervals will allow access to habitats on the other side of the track. But their usage and impact will have to assessed."
TurtlesTurtles are one of the oldest reptile groups existing - older than lizards, snakes and crocodiles. After having survived more than 250 million years, turtles are now in danger. Of the 263 species of freshwater and terrestrial turtles, 117 species are considered Threatened, 73 are either Endangered or Critically Endangered and 1 is Extinct.
Turtles face many threats, including habitat destruction, harvesting for consumption and pet trade. Asian species are the most endangered, their high extinction risk is primarily due to the long-term unsustainable exploitation of turtles and tortoises for consumption and traditional Chinese medicine, and to a lesser extent for the international pet trade.