The Bostami tortoise, or black soft-shell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans), an internationally recognised endangered species, has been under threat for decades due to habitat pollution and shrinking breeding grounds.
Creative Conservation Alliance, an NGO working on conserving the endangered tortoise in Chattogram since 2019, released 53 Bostami tortoise hatchlings in Bayezid Bostami pond in the city on Thursday, hatched in artificial insemination.
So far, the organisation has hatched 311 Bostami tortoise hatchlings from 1,155 eggs and released them in the pond.
Zoologists say the tortoise species is found in Chattogram as well as in nine places in India, Arakan in Myanmar, and the Brahmaputra basin in Bangladesh.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an international organisation working for the conservation of endangered species, listed the species as endangered in 1998. In 2012, Bangladesh also started to conserve this species.
The Bangladesh Forest Department and Bayezid Bostami Shrine authorities are cooperating with the organisation in this initiative.
Creative Alliance Chief Executive Shahriar Rahman Caesar told The Business Standard that 38 hatchlings were hatched from 55 eggs in 2019, 206 from 700 eggs in 2020, and 67 from 400 eggs in 2021.
He said the birth of turtle hatchlings has decreased alarmingly compared to previous years.
Habibur Rahman, general secretary of the shrine committee, told TBS that after some criminals attempted to poison and kill the turtles in the pond on shrine premises, initiatives were taken to protect the turtles with the help of the forest department and animal researchers.
As part of the initiative, an artificial breeding centre was built next to the shrine. The shrine committee and devotees have been cooperating in this regard.
To protect the turtles another pond has to be dug in the shrine area, so that if there is a problem the turtles can be shifted to another pond.
Creative Alliance volunteer Uchhas Barua said during the breeding season every year in June-July they collect turtle eggs for hatching. After hatching, the hatchlings are taken to the breeding centre in August and observed for six months before they are released into the pond in February.
According to IUCN, there are 260 species of tortoises in the world, of which 30 species are found in Bangladesh. All but six of them are on the endangered species list. The length of the species of Bostami tortoise found in different rivers and reservoirs of the country is 50-60 cm.
However, the tortoises at the Bayazid Bostami shrine range from 90 centimetres to one metre long. This brown and black animal can survive in temperate climates.