Behler turtle conservation award: Indian biologist wins global award in turtle conservation


Shailendra Singh, a biologist from India, has won the Behler Turtle Conservation Award. He has been awarded for bringing three critically endangered turtle conservation species back from the brink of extinction.

As per the press statement issued by the headquarters of the Turtle Survival Alliance, for some species, such as the Northern River Terrapin (Batagur Baska), Red-crowned roofed turtle (Batagur Kachuga) and Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans), Dr. Shailendra Singh and his team are the last hope for their wild survival in India.

The prestigious award has been bestowed by various global bodies that are involved in turtle conservation such as IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Survival Alliance, the Turtle Conservation Fund, and Turtle Conservancy.

Why Shailendra Singh has won Turtle Conservation Award?

The President of the Turtle Survival Alliance, Rick Hudson said that in just 15 years, there have been very few people who have made such monumental contributions to turtle conservation as Dr. Singh.

He and his team’s efforts now expand much of India and impact well over half of its turtle and tortoise species, many of which are among the most endangered ones on the planet.

He further added that while it may take decades to witness the full impact of Dr. Singh’s commitment, his legacy and his name have been synonymous with the conservation of turtles in India.

Work done by Shailendra Singh for Turtle Conservation:

Shailendra Singh was named to lead the Turtle Survival Alliance/Wildlife Conservation Society India Turtle Program.

In just 13 years, he expanded the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) India Program to include conservation, research, community engagement, assurance colony building, and outreach. He also worked on developing alternative livelihoods, creating wildlife trafficking response programs, and worked to convert poachers.

The India Turtle Program, working in four priority Indian turtle conservation areas, now protects 18 of India’s 29 turtle and tortoise species out of which several of them have been regarded as critically endangered.

What Dr. Singh said on winning the award?

Dr. Shailendra Singh, on the news of winning the award, said that it has turned the spotlight on turtle conservation in India.

The Indian biologist further said that turtles are one of the highly smuggled species in the country and in the past several years, he and his team have rescued about 35,000 turtles and have rehabilitated them in the wild.

Conservation of endangered turtles in India:

The critically endangered turtles are being conserved as part of Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) India’s research, education program, conservation breeding in various parts of India.

The Northern River Terrapin (Batagur Baska) is being conserved by the teams in Sunderbans; Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) at different temples in Assam; Red-crowned roofed turtle (Batagur Kachuga) is being conserved at Chambal. In India, there are 29 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises.

The report released in 2019 by the International Wildlife Trade Monitoring Body TRAFFIC revealed that at least 200 individual freshwater turtles and tortoises fall prey to illicit smuggling every week. 11,000 each year and over 1,11,130 between September 2009 and September 2019.

Behler Turtle Conservation Award:

In 2006, the Behler Turtle Conservation Award was established to recognize the contributions, outstanding achievements, and leadership excellence in international turtle conservation and biology.

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