Bengaluru: Black softshell turtles play a crucial role in maintaining wetlands. But all thanks to religious beliefs and man’s food habits, these turtles have become an endangered species in Assam.

But herpetologist Jayaditya Purkayastha has decided to rescue them. 

As reported by The Better India, he says, “I remember that black softshell turtles were caught in large numbers through fishnets, and became part of the sea, river, or freshwater resources for consumption. But during research, I learned that they have become rare, or are not found in their natural habitat”. 
“Turtles do not enjoy the same privilege of having an “exotic ‘value” as tigers or rhinos. They are a neglected endangered species, and need saving,” he adds. 

He was even awarded the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund in 2012. He uses the funds in the conservation of these creatures. 

These turtles have a lot of cultural significance as well. The rescuer adds, “The tradition links back to the Ahom kings when these turtles were deeply admired and donated to the ponds. The practise continues today — people donate the turtle when a child is born, as it represents long life, or to mark a woman’s menstruation cycle, as it symbolises fertility.”

What is shocking is once these creatures make it to the temple pond, they don’t return to the wild and remain captives there. 
What is more disturbing is that these ponds are narrow and don’t allow the turtles to swim around in an easy manner. They are also overcrowded which does not allow them to bask in the sun. 

Once they become prey to diseases, the entire population can be wiped out. 

Though he faced stiff resistance from temple authorities, he convinced them that these turtles had injury marks on them. 

Once they agreed, he returned them to the wild and now has helped 300 turtles breathe easy.