Reintroducing gharials and turtles to the Ganges and Beas

Posted on 22 February 2021

WWF-India and partners reintroduce critically endangered gharials as well as hatchlings of three species of turtles
In another boost to the long-term survival of the critically endangered gharial, 23 juveniles were released into the Beas Conservation Reserve by WWF India, Punjab Forest Department, and communities in February.

A joint monitoring team comprising the Wildlife Division Hoshiarpur and WWF India will be monitoring the river and the gharials daily for a month to observe their behaviour, movements, and habitat preferences. Previously, 47 juvenile gharials were released into the Beas Conservation Reserve in 2017 and 2018 and subsequent field surveys showed that the reintroduced gharials had dispersed both upstream (95km) and downstream (70km) from the release site.
 
The gharial reintroduction programme has also released 818 gharials into the Ganges since it began in 2008.
 
But it was not only gharials. 75 turtles hatchlings - including Indian Tent Turtles, Brown Roofed Turtles and Three-stripped Roofed Turtles - were also released into the Ganges in February at Haiderpur Wetlands in Uttar Pradesh. This was the latest part of a reintroduction programme that has seen more than 600 turtles released by WWF-India and partners into the Ganges river and its tributary the Ramganga since October 2020.

The community-led turtle conservation initiative, which is jointly implemented by WWF India and Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, focuses on safeguarding turtle nests with riparian communities' support. Turtle nests on river banks are protected at the site, while those in the agricultural fields or high-risk areas are collected and transferred to hatcheries by the experts. The hatchlings are then relocated to a turtle nursery, where they are protected and nurtured for six months and subsequently released into the wild.

Riparian communities play a key role in identifying turtle nests, informing the WWF India team, and releasing the hatchlings. WWF India initiated turtle conservation in Uttar Pradesh in collaboration with State Forest Department, District Administration, local communities, and experts in 2012. Through these collaborative efforts, around 3,800 turtles have been nurtured and released into the Ganges and Ramganga.
Gharials after reintroduction
© Sanjeev Kumar Yadav/ WWF India
Reintroducing Indian tent turtles into the Ganges
© Mohd Alam / WWF-India