Northern River Terrapin

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 3, 2022, 12:14

The Northern River Terrapin is a riverine turtle species also known by the name Batagur Baska. It is one of the few freshwater turtles listed as the most threatened species in the world.

The species was largely found in the coastal areas and rivers of West Bengal and Odisha in the 1900s but had declined in population because of unsustainable harvesting practices.

Northern River Terrapin Facts

They are one of the biggest backwater and freshwater turtles in Asia, boasting a length of up to 60cm and a weight of up to 18kg.

The species of turtle is presently found in the Sunderbans in India and in Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Though it is aquatic, it uses terrestrial areas and is often seen nesting in tidal regions of estuaries, mangrove forests, and big rivers.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List classifies the species as Critically Endangered. Recently, the forest department has installed GPS transmitters in the Indian Sundarbans.

In just three weeks of the release, three out of ten of these species are seen travelling hundreds of kilometres to reach Bangladesh.

Northern River Terrapin Habitat

The Northern River Terrapins are mostly found in Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, and India.

They are freshwater turtles that generally make a habitat in biomes like coastal, rivers, wetlands, and marine.

Northern River Terrapin Characteristics

They feature an upturned snout and are omnivores, feeding on small animals like clams and waterside plants. They spend most of the time in water and come out on the land only to lay eggs.

Northern River Terrapins are known to possess social characteristics and are often seen in groups during the daytime. At the night, they generally take a rest in their own burrows in the mud. They even undertake extensive seasonal migrations of 80-100 km to the sandbanks.

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Current Status of The Northern River Terrapin

The five most-threatened freshwater turtles in India comprise the Northern River Terrapin existing in the Sundarbans and the red-crowned roofed turtle in the National Chambal Sanctuary in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.

India has initiated a conservation breeding programme for the species. With the objective of learning the breeding pattern, habitat, and movement of the turtles, the Turtle Survival Alliance have installed GPS transmitters and noted that the animals have traversed hundreds of kilometres in just a few weeks of their release.

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The officials are excited about discovering newer details about the species to work on their conservation.

The Northern River Terrapin are a critically endangered species of turtle, which is finally receiving the attention they deserve. With extensive conservation efforts, the species can be brought up to vulnerable or least concerned levels.

India's approach in recent years in this regard shows a paradigm shift in wildlife conservation and the protection of its rich flora and fauna.

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FAQs on Northern River Terrapin

Q1) Why is the Northern River Terrapin under threat?

Some of the reasons why the Northern River Terrapin is under threat include pollution, fishing practices, hunting, and loss of habitat.

Q2) With regards to the Northern River Terrapin, where is the Batagur Baska found?

The turtle species is native to southeast Asia and found in India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

Q3) Where do Northern River Terrapins live?

The Northern River Terrapin is strongly aquatic but uses terrestrial nesting sites like mangrove forests, large rivers, and estuaries.

Q4) Why are the Batagur Baska turtle, or Northern River Terrapin, endangered?

Over the past decades, the decline of habitat, hunting for meat, and destruction from killing by predators have led to declining numbers of Batagur Baska, or Northern River Terrapin, in South Asia.

Q5) What kind of animal is the Northern River Terrapin?

The Northern River Terrapin is a riverine turtle species