“Till couple of years ago, we used to throw away the turtle nests found in our farms. However, over the years, we have started taking care of them just like our own children!” - a popular feeling and an expression full of warmth commonly witnessed while interacting with Mitras, engaged in turtle conservation initiative in Ganga/ Ramganga river.
Mitra- friends of the river, are the result of an idea initiated by WWF-India. Today there are approx. 4,000 individuals who call themselves Ganga/ Ramganga Mitras. A diverse group of self-motivated individuals who have come forward to protect rivers and the biodiversity it homes, like the turtles.
Freshwater turtles live both in the rivers and on the land, they nest on the river banks. They are the top predators in the freshwater ecosystem playing a significant role in balancing the ecological pyramid of freshwater systems. Most of the freshwater turtles are omnivores, their diet includes worms, snails, insects, crustaceans, water plants, algae and fishes. Protecting turtles protects our rivers.
There are 13 species of freshwater turtles identified in the Upper Ganga River, of which WWF-India is working towards conserving three species- Three-Stripped Roof Turtle (Batagur dhongoka), Brown Roofed Turtle(Pangshura smithii) and Indian Tent Turtle (Pangshura tentoria).
WWF-India initiated turtle conservation in Uttar Pradesh in collaboration with State Forest Department, District Administration, local communities and experts in 2012. Freshwater turtles prefer to nest and bask on the river banks, thus the river-bed farmers have regularly sited turtles in their agricultural land and river banks. Through WWF-India’s community-led conservation initiatives the farmers have now become active care-takers of turtles nests found in their fields and river banks.
The riparian communities participate in nest identification, protection and biological monitoring with a sense of ownership towards biodiversity conservation and river health in particular. The vulnerable nests collected from the agricultural fields/ river banks, are transferred to a safe place (riverside hatchery) until they hatch. The hatchlings are then kept in a turtle nursery (pond) before they are released into the wild.
Meet Ranjeet and Neeraj, the motivated and capacitated farmer-Mitras from Shahjahanpur village (on the banks of Ramganga river), who had adopted Best Management Practices (BMP) for sustainable agriculture together, successfully released turtle hatchlings from their community hatchery into River Ramganga in December, 2018. They had volunteered to set up hatchery, identified nests, collected and installed the eggs in their hatchery the previous year.
The engagement with communities living around rivers is vital for conserving rivers and freshwater species. Mitras participate in monitoring changes, taking positive action for river health and influencing policy makers. A strong community working for the river, emerges as a voice to help bring positive change. We need more more mitras like Ranjeet & Neeraj.
Today man has become the biggest threat to the health of the planet. 60% wildlife populations have been lost in less than 50 years (Living Planet Report 2018). We are the first generation to know what we’re doing, and the last who have a chance to put things right.
“WHAT WE DO NOW, AND IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS, WILL PROFOUNDLY AFFECT THE NEXT FEW THOUSAND YEARS”
There are small changes that we can make right now in our everyday lives. When we come together to make these small changes, they can make a big difference.FIND OUT HOW